August 6, 2008 / 5:18 PM / 11 years ago

Many people don't get prescriptions filled

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - One in three people who are prescribed medications may never get them filled, a new study in patients being treated for skin conditions has found.

Therefore, when a prescribed treatment fails doctors should consider that a patient may not have purchased the medication in the first place, Dr. Andreas Storm of Copenhagen University Hospital in Bispebjerg, Denmark, and colleagues conclude.

They used the Danish National Electronic Pharmacy Register, which includes all prescriptions purchased within the past two years across the country, to determine if a group of patients prescribed new medications had actually gotten them filled.

Their analysis included 322 people who were prescribed a total of 390 medications. Four weeks after receiving the prescription, 30.7 percent of the patients had not filled it, the researchers found.

Most people who did buy the medication did so within a week of receiving the prescription.

Older patients were more likely to fill their prescriptions, as were patients who had seen specialists. People with chronic illnesses were less likely than those with short-term conditions to get a prescription filled; for example, 44.2 percent of patients with psoriasis didn’t fill their prescriptions, compared to just 12.2 percent of those with infections. Patients were also less likely to fill prescriptions for topical medications than for pills.

One approach for encouraging patients to fill their prescription could involve contacting them by phone, mail or in person, ideally one week after the medication has been prescribed, the researchers say. And they think doctors should set up appointments to follow up with patients, instead of writing additional prescriptions.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, July 2008.

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