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Students Tackle Growing Crisis of Poor Medication Adherence

According to a recent report from the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), poor medication adherence has reached crisis proportions, leading to unnecessary disease progression and complications, reduced functioning, a lower quality of life and even death. The NCPIE report cited that only about 50 percent of Americans typically take their medicines as prescribed. A local pilot study by Duquesne University pharmacy students produced similar findings.

“Medication adherence is the No. 1 problem in treating illness today,” said Dr. Monica Skomo, assistant professor of pharmacy practice.  “Nearly 25 percent of all nursing home admissions and 10 percent of hospital admissions are the result of patients failing to take prescription medications correctly. What’s more, approximately 125,000 American with treatable disorders die each year because of medication non-adherence.”

Under Skomo’s guidance, seven fifth-year students from the Mylan School of Pharmacy developed a consumer brochure detailing medication adherence as well as a brief survey asking pharmacy customers to evaluate their own medication habits.

The Duquesne students distributed the brochure and personally conducted surveys of 154 pharmacy customers over a four-week period at area Giant Eagle, CVS, K-Mart, Walgreens and Walmart stores.

The survey revealed that a significant number of respondents indicated some degree of medication non-adherence:

  • 52 percent specified that they stop taking their medication if the medication makes them feel worse
  • 48 percent admitted forgetting to take their medication
  • 29 percent revealed they stop taking their medication when they feel better.

The top three reasons cited for medication non-adherence included adverse effects, not feeling the medication helped and poor communication with one’s doctor.

“We found that administering the survey, as well as distributing and discussing the pamphlet, really opened up the lines of communication between patients and our pharmacy students,” Skomo said. “Patients were much more likely to discuss their personal challenges to medication adherence.  In turn, our students and the pharmacists had the opportunity to address these challenges and make a positive impact.”

This project was initiated in response to a challenge from the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association (PPA). The organization asked all pharmacy schools in the state to develop a medication adherence project, and the Duquesne cohort took a multi-faceted, hands-on approach to improve patient compliance and health outcomes.

The students will report their findings to the PPA and present their project at the PPA annual meeting in September. In the future, the school would like to replicate this project on a larger scale and gather additional data.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.