Medication Adherence

Improving Medication Adherence During COVID-19 and Beyond


old lady (1)Medication adherence refers to whether patients take their medications as prescribed. Patient adherence has been shown to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. Unfortunately, nonadherence, including delaying or not filling a prescription, skipping doses, splitting pills, or stopping a medication early, is a persistent problem and growing.

Medication Nonadherence and Its Ramifications
Generally, adherence rates of 80 percent or more are needed for optimal therapeutic efficacy. However, it is estimated that adherence to medications that manage chronic conditions is only around 50 percent.3 This nonadherence is thought to account for up to 50 percent of treatment failures, approximately 125,000 deaths, and nearly 25 percent of hospitalizations per year in the United States.1-4 In addition, nonadherence costs the American healthcare system an estimated $100 to $300 billion annually.5

Reasons for Nonadherence
Outside of an inpatient setting, the responsibility of medication adherence ultimately lies with the patient. There are many barriers to medication adherence, including:

  • Inability to pay for medications

  • Believing treatment isn’t necessary

  • Keeping up with multiple medications and dosing

  • Accessing pharmacies to obtain medications

The COVID-19 Effect
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inability to pay for medications and lack of access to pharmacies has dramatically increased. The loss of employer-based health benefits, a decrease in routine and preventive care, along with the fear or inability to leave the safety of home, is affecting millions of Americans and impacting medication adherence rates for the worse.

Reducing Cost
With the rise in the cost of pharmaceuticals and increase in job insecurity, the greater the need for reduced cost medications. Equiscript works with 340B-eligible healthcare organizations across the United States, providing reduced cost medications to eligible patients.

Increasing Access
An obvious, yet underutilized solution to lack of pharmacy access, whether due to COVID-19 concerns, lack of transportation, or mobility issues, is home delivery of medications. Equiscript’s medication home delivery program allows patients to stay home, while not incurring additional costs for the delivery service. After a simple patient eligibility analysis process between Equiscript and the healthcare organization, Equiscript’s patient care team works directly with the patient to set up service to have the patient’s medications delivered to their home. And Equiscript continues to reach out to the patient, checking in on program satisfaction, prescription refills, and any concerns the patient may have.

“At Equiscript, it’s our job to take great care of patients, and help them get the medication they need,” said Equiscript CEO, Michael Burkhold. “We believe, and have shown, that if you provide a service people need in a format they want, that you can improve the larger system with better adherence rates and healthier patients,” he said.

Medication adherence can have an enormous impact on patient health outcomes, quality of life and healthcare costs. Providing patients with access to reduced cost medications and the convenience of home delivery can go a long way in increasing medication adherence rates.

1. Brown MT, Bussell JK. Medication adherence: WHO cares? Mayo Clin Proc. 2011;86(4):304-314.
2. Sabaté E. Adherence to long-term therapies: evidence for action. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2003. Accessed May 21, 2020.

3. DiMatteo MR, Giordani PJ, Lepper HS, et al. Patient adherence and medical treatment outcomes: a meta-analysis. Med Care. 2002;40(9):794-811.
4. Wu JR, Moser DK. Medication adherence mediates the relationship between heart failure symptoms and cardiac event-free survival in patients with heart failure. J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2018 Jan-Feb;33(1):40–6. doi: 10.1097/jcn.0000000000000427.
5. American College of Preventive Medicine. Medication Adherence Clinical Reference. 2011. Accessed June 10, 2017.


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