Ask About Adherence is a blog series featuring Q&A’s with experts in medication adherence. In this post, we speak with Sally Greenberg, National Consumers League (NCL) executive director, on their national adherence public education campaign.
Stay tuned for the next Q&A and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you on ways to improve medication adherence!
SAMANTHA DOUGHERTY: What is the National Consumers League doing to improve patient adherence?
SALLY GREENBERG: Nearly three out of four Americans report that they do not always take their medications as directed. This poor adherence leads to serious health consequences and billions of dollars annually in avoidable health care costs. People with chronic conditions are especially at risk, yet far too many do not understand how and why they should take their medications.
To address this problem, in 2011 the National Consumers League (NCL) launched Script Your Future, the first and only national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of taking medications as directed. Bringing together more than135 stakeholder organizations, Script Your Future has aimed to help people with chronic conditions — particularly those with cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease (asthma and COPD), and diabetes — along with their family caregivers and health care professionals, to talk more clearly and effectively with each other about adherence.
Script Your Future’s national outreach and targeted efforts in six pilot cities have reached millions of Americans through hundreds of local events, traditional and social media, educational programs by campaign stakeholders, and print and online materials, such as the very popular Script Your Future wallet card. The Medication Adherence Team Challenge has engaged thousands of health professions students, as they disseminated campaign materials to millions in their communities across the nation.
DOUGHERTY: What do you think is the most important driver of patient non-adherence?
GREENBERG: There are numerous drivers of poor adherence. Patients have many understandable reasons for not taking their medicine as directed: forgetfulness, lack of confidence in the medicine’s effectiveness, fear of side effects, trouble administering the medicine, particularly with injections or inhalers, difficulty finding time to refill a prescription, and cost of medicines. And people do not always fully understand their chronic health condition and the consequences of not taking their medication as prescribed.
The Script Your Future campaign encourages health care professionals (HCPs) , including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, to talk to their patients about whether they are able to take their medications and if not, what can be done to help them adhere. Health care professionals are a critical part of moving towards the goal of more fully discussing medication and the health consequences of non-adherence. Those discussions help identify patients’ barriers to adherence, allowing HCPs to then work with patients to overcome them.
Script Your Future’s core messages are:
- If you don’t take your medicine as directed, you’re putting your health – and your future – at risk.
- If you have questions about your health condition, how your medicine works, side effects, or other concerns, talk to your health care professional.
- ScriptYourFuture.org can help you take your medicine and take back your future
The campaign emphasizes that health care professionals need to ask patients the right questions, not
simply hand them a prescription. And by prompting individuals to think about why better health is important to them personally, patients are motivated in unique and powerful ways.
DOUGHERTY: What do you think stakeholders can do to help patients adhere to their medications?
GREENBERG: Encourage conversations between HCPs and patients about their medications. Use our materials to start that conversation.
Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop once famously remarked that “drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” Script Your Future is working together with over 130 stakeholders and patients to change the paradigm from one of blaming or shaming patients for not taking their medications, to breaking down barriers that keep patients from talking to their doctors, pharmacists and nurses and ensuring that the causes of non-adherence are understood on both sides. That, we believe, will go a long way toward solving the problems related to non-adherence.
Throughout this campaign, we have had the opportunity to talk to many consumers and health care professionals across the country. We have learned that the more patients understand the impact medication has on their health and the consequences of their own poor adherence, the more likely their adherence will improve.