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New initiative to improve medication adherence unveiled by health care, consumer, patient and industry leaders

National survey highlights extent of issue and opportunities to address it

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A partnership representing patients, health care providers, pharmacy organizations, consumers and health care industry leaders announced a major new initiative today to help improve medication adherence rates. The group, which was formed to advance solutions that help reduce health care costs and improve patient health across the nation, also released the findings of a new national survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies. 

“Working together, we will help advance achievable solutions to help improve medication adherence among patients of all ages, backgrounds and geographic locations,” said Joel White, executive director of the Council for Affordable Health Coverage. “Improving adherence will improve health, lower costs and make coverage more affordable. It is a national health care conversation that warrants the attention of policymakers and consumers alike. Going forward, we will work to implement a blueprint with the goal of addressing the issue head on.”

Among the key findings of the national survey:

  • Medication Non-Adherence is a Major Health Care Issue: Nearly two-thirds of patients (64 percent) who take medication do not properly adhere to prescription regimens. A third of chronically-ill patients failed to do so at least once in the last month.

  • Patient Health and Adherence Are Inextricably Linked: Nearly nine out of 10 patients who adhere to their prescription medications describe their health as “good” or “excellent,” while only 65 percent of patients with poor adherence report the same.

  • Knowing the Consequences Is a Motivating Factor: More than 50 percent of Americans who take medications said that they would be more likely to take their medication as prescribed if they were more informed about the potential negative health consequences of non-adherence.

  • Clear Support Exists for Near-Term Solutions: A number of potential policy solutions received broad support, including:

    • Providing clear and easy-to-understand information about prescription medication and how to take it properly (92 percent).

    • Improving information technology to give all of a patient’s doctors and health care providers an accurate, up-to-date list of medications filled by the patient (89 percent); and

    • Encouraging increased discussion between patients and doctors about medication (89 percent).

“The findings we are releasing today demonstrate that medication adherence is a critical and prevalent public health issue,” said pollsters Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. “At the same time, there is far-reaching support for policy solutions ranging from care coordination and increased communication to more direct engagement with patients.”

Medication adherence means that patients are taking their medications at the times, dosages, frequencies, and direction prescribed. Failure to do so results in negative health effects for patients and reduced effectiveness of treatment regimens.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to help Americans live longer, more productive and healthier lives,” said Dr. Rebecca Jaffe, MD, board member of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “This begins with education and awareness, but will only be fully realized if we work together to enact meaningful public policy solutions to ensure Americans have the tools and information they need to adhere to doctor-prescribed medications. Nowhere is there a better opportunity to directly improve Americans’ health.”

“Poor medication adherence is a complex and widespread, national problem,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “There are many different reasons why people don’t take their medicine as directed, from concerns about side effects to the out-of-pocket costs of prescriptions. But the consequences for patients are the same. Poor adherence puts patients, especially those with chronic conditions, at risk for serious complications. Educating the public and encouraging dialogue with their health care professionals, are important steps toward improving medication adherence in our country.”

Across the nation, tens of thousands of people die every year due to poor medication adherence. Research published in the journal Health Affairs found that emergency room visits and hospitalizations increase by more than 10 percent for diabetics who fail to take their medicines as prescribed, and hospitalizations increase for non-adherent patients with congestive heart failure, hypertension and dyslipidemia. In addition, improving medication adherence can reduce state and federal health care spending. The cost of non-adherence has been estimated at $100 billion to $300 billion annually, including costs from hospitalizations, nursing home admissions, and premature deaths.

“We all share the common goal of providing patients with the highest quality of care, and that goal drives this effort,” said John J. Castellani, President and CEO of PhRMA. “As we focus on advancing research and new medicines, our industry will continue to highlight solutions such as improved medication adherence that help strengthen better health outcomes and control health care costs.”

The partnership will work closely with elected officials and other key stakeholders to develop policies that help physicians, pharmacies, and other health care practitioners support patients’ medication adherence as a critical part of any wellness or disease management plan.

Led by the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, the organizations launching Prescriptions for a Healthy America: A Partnership for Advancing Medication Adherence include: American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Heart Association, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, American Osteopathic Association, AstraZeneca, CVS/Caremark, Easter Seals, GlaxoSmithKline, Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council, Healthcare Leadership Council, MeadWestvaco, Merck, Mirixa Corp, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Consumers League, National Council for Community and Behavioral Health, National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, National Council on Aging, National Council on Patient Information and Education, National Pharmaceutical Council, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, PhRMA, Third Way, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

For a full copy of the survey results, visit

Prescriptions for a Healthy America: A Partnership for Advancing Medication Adherence is comprised of organizations representing patients, health care providers, pharmacy organizations, consumers and health care industry leaders. The goal of the partnership is to educate lawmakers about the dangers and costs of not taking medication as prescribed, as well as develop and implement public policy solutions that will reduce the level of medicine non adherence nationwide. For more information on the partnership, visit

Quotes from Partnership Members:

Chamber of Commerce

"Employers can play a critical role in highlighting the benefits of medication adherence as part of comprehensive chronic disease management programs,” said Bruce Josten, executive vice president for Government Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Ensuring a focus on initiatives like this can help lower unnecessary costs incurred by avoidable and foreseeable complications, which will improve health, reduce preventable hospitalization and increase productivity."


“Poor medication adherence is a serious problem that impacts the health of our members and increases overall health care costs but by working together the health care community can find solutions,” said Anita Allemand, Vice President Product Innovation and Management of CVS Caremark. “This is why we have joined Prescriptions for a Healthy America. Together we hope to find commonsense solutions to improve medication adherence. CVS/Caremark is already engaged on the front lines to make a difference. For example, we have invested in research with key academic partners to better understand why people take or don’t take their medications and are actively working to identify and implement innovative solutions across our business that can improve adherence.”

Easter Seals

“At a time when the health care world is focused on increasing the value of care while reducing the cost, there are few actions with more impact than medication adherence,” said Randall L. Rutta, Chief Strategic Officer and Executive Vice President, Easter Seals. “The investment in prescriptions can have the greatest impact when medication is used correctly and correct use can be achieved through supporting better communication and coordination between individuals and their health care team. Efforts to make these improvements can only reap benefits.”


"People who take their medication as prescribed may have a better chance of living healthier lives," said Michael Rosenblatt, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer at Merck. "We think patients, providers, lawmakers and companies like Merck all must play a part in improving patient education and health literacy, care coordination and medication management, which can lead to improved adherence. At Merck we are applying the same scientific rigor to studying medication adherence as we bring to discovering new treatments."


"Medication adherence is a complicated, global problem and we recognize the importance of working together to build solutions that complement each other as part of effective adherence programs," said Bruce Thomas, president, MWV Healthcare. "Through scientific research, we understand that packaging can improve medication adherence and we're seeing that it is effective when used alone, and even more so as part of a broader adherence program."

National Council on Patient Information and Education

“Improving medication adherence - and ultimately improving health outcomes - requires a coordinated, multi-stakeholder adherence action agenda, at the heart of which are broad health policy changes, like those being advanced by the Prescriptions for a Healthy America Partnership,” said Ray Bullman, Executive Vice President of the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE).


“There is real momentum building in the health care system for improving the use of medicines and medication adherence,” said Tom Hubbard, Vice President of Policy for NEHI, a national health policy institute. “Now we need to create a fully supportive policy environment in Washington.”

Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease

"Empowering patients to follow through on recommended treatment is critical to improving health. We are proud to support the Partnership for Advancing Medication Adherence," said Ken Thorpe, Chair, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.

Prescriptions for a Healthy America
Paul Hewitt, 202-559-0205
[email protected]

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