As many as 3 out of 4 Americans may not always take their medications as directed, say leaders of Script Your Future, a nationwide campaign to address the problem.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley joined a chorus of health care and community leaders Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the Birmingham launch of the initiative to encourage better medication adherence, especially for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, respiratory illness and cardio vascular disease.
According to a study, not taking medication as directed causes nearly 125,000 deaths in the United States each year.
“I want to see Alabama healthy,” said Bentley, a physician who practiced medicine for 35 years before being elected governor in 2010. “We need to make sure that patients take their medication, and take it properly.”
Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy is one of 25 Alabama-based health care stakeholders, including the State Department of Senior Services, who seek to help patients better adhere to their medication and to help health care workers better communicate with patients.
In addition to doctors, nurses and other health care providers, pharmacists are an important part of the team that can help patients understand the value of proper medication adherence, say campaign leaders.
Community pharmacist Kenny Sanders, treasurer of the Alabama Board of Pharmacy and a member of the Samford pharmacy school's advisory board, said that the financial cost for non-adherence can be high. Estimates range from $100 to $300 billion nationally each year for additional medicines, emergency room visits and hospital admissions that result from poor medication adherence, he said.
“This is a heavy burden for Alabama, and the nation,” said Sanders, adding that pharmacists are uniquely prepared to help patients take medications properly.
“We are trained in school to do this, we are committed to it, and we preach it,” said Sanders, an adjunct pharmacy professor at Samford. He is also a preceptor for pharmacy students from Samford and Auburn University.
Pharmacists are on the front line of health care, he said. “We talk to patients every day. Our patients know us, and I hope we know them.”
He said he is pleased that students are already active in advancing Script Your Future initiatives, noting that Samford and Auburn students took part in a recent SYF challenge to develop and implement the most effective adherence interventions in their local communities.
Birmingham is part of a nation-wide Script Your Future effort launched earlier this year in Washington, D.C., and is one of only six cities in which the pilot program is being installed.
The Birmingham launch event was held at Homewood Pharmacy, where 1998 Samford Pharm.D. graduate Robert Mills is the owner, and 2009 Samford Pharm.D. graduate Alex Sproule is manager.
Script Your Future tools include free text message reminders, sample questions for patients to ask health care practitioners, and other helpful information. The materials can be found on the campaign website: www.ScriptYourFuture.org.