Patients Not Taking Their Drugs? Ways You Can Change That!

One Reason Patients Don’t Take Their Drugs

It’s a familiar moment in the clinical encounter: You prescribe a medication for your patient’s condition, when she suddenly grows quiet and drops her gaze to the floor. You sense that something has shifted, but you can’t quite put your finger on it and you’re running late. It’s only later that you realize the problem: She can’t afford to fill the prescription.

Patients May Be Taken by Surprise

Unless physicians broach that delicate topic, patients often don’t realize they can’t afford a prescription until they are standing at the pharmacy counter. Too often, faced with a daunting bill, they simply walk away.

How Doctors Can Help

Knowing whether or not a patient can afford his or her medications enables you to be proactive. Although physicians may not be able to solve a patient’s financial problems, they can provide valuable guidance. Among the steps doctors can take:

Know the Resources Available to You

The medication assistance resources available to patients vary tremendously on the basis of a physician’s practice setting, according to Kennedy. Physicians need to find out what programs are available and whether or not their facility is taking advantage of them. “There is a patchwork of programs,” including patient assistance programs (PAPs) through drug companies and foundations, such as AmeriCares; drug discount programs, such as NeedyMeds, and the federal 340B program, which enables certain facilities to purchase drugs at the lowest prices possible.

Try Older Drugs First

“Are you prescribing the latest and greatest brand name drug when there is a generic available?” asks Dr Sagall. Doctors need to balance efficacy and affordability. Older drugs often achieve many of the same ends as newer incarnations, and are often much more affordable.

Consider Generics and Know Prices

“Everyone assumes that generics are cheap, but generic costs are skyrocketing,” says Dr Sagall. If you frequently prescribe the same handful of generic drugs or mainstay treatments, have a sense of what they cost, he says. Prices can differ substantially from manufacturer to manufacturer and from pharmacy to pharmacy.

Build Bridges With Pharmacists

Pharmacists are on the front lines. They interact with patients at a critical decision point: the cash register. They know drug costs; can see alternative mediations that may be included in an insured patient’s formulary; and may know strategies that can help an uninsured patient reduce their costs, such as splitting higher-dosage pills in half. Increasingly, pharmacists are using such programs such as medication therapy management and appointment-based modeling to help patients better manage their prescriptions and potentially reduce the number of drugs they take.

Provide Patients With an Information Sheet

Because there are innumerable PAPs available and they are constantly changing, doctors can’t keep up with all the programs. Still, physicians can provide patients with a list of resources where they can learn more.

Learn From Your Patients

Often, low-income patients know about assistance programs available through churches and other community organizations.

Accept Your Limitations

Although doctors can help patients navigate the system and complete paperwork on their behalf, they can’t fix the underlying problem.

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