Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
As is the case of many things when it comes to health, fitness and nutrition, we know what we’re supposed to do.
If only more of us would do it.
Sometimes, our choices may add a couple of pounds around our waistlines. Sometimes, we may grunt when we get off the couch. Sometimes, our stomachs may disagree with what we ate.
But sometimes, the choices we make can lead to serious illness, or even death.
That’s why Univera Healthcare launched a new effort today to urge people to take their medicines as prescribed.
The “Take as Directed: Protect Your Health” campaign looks to address the startling statistics involving medication adherence in the U.S., which mirrors what happens locally in Western New York.
“It may seem like everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to, but the statistics do not bear that out,” said Dr. Richard Vienne, who practices at Lifetime Health Medical Group in Amherst and is chief medical officer with Univera.
As many as 20 percent of patients don’t fill new prescriptions and half of those with chronic conditions stop taking medications within six months. That has become a growing problem, according to the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Today, roughly three-quarters of all doctor, outpatient hospital and emergency room visits include drug therapy.
• Half of Americans – including nine out of 10 of those age 60 and older – take at least one prescription drug each month.
• During the past decade, the use of multiple prescriptions has climbed by 20 percent and the use of five or more drugs has skyrocketed by 70 percent.
• Poor medication adherence results in an estimated 125,000 deaths a year and costs the U.S. health care system nearly $300 billion annually on additional doctor, hospital and emergency room visits.
“I’ve seen it in my practice multiple times where people have not taken medication and unfortunately there are consequences ” Vienne said.
Vienne recounted a story of a diabetic who was doing beautifully before he went on a cruise, stopped taking medication as directed and ignored the limits of his diet.
“When those things happen, it puts people at risk,” Vienne said. “It can create an urgent care visit, an ER visit or something more dreadful that requires hospitalization. That’s what we don’t want.”
Vienne and several other regional health experts will provide tips on sticking to your medication regimen Saturday in WNY Refresh, and address excuses that include: “It’s too expensive,” “Sometimes, I just forget to take it,” “Getting refills can be inconvenient,” “It’s just too complicated,” “I don’t like the side-effects,” and “I don’t think I need to take it. I feel fine without it.”
Vienne and others said the key tip is to educate yourself about the importance and features of your medications with the help of your family doctor and pharmacist.
Part of the tenor of their comments also boils down to this: If you want to do something about the state of health care in this country, start at home, by taking the required steps to stay healthy.
“Because the stats are so alarming,” Vienne said, “because the secondary consequences of not taking medications are so horrible, that’s why we want this (information) to come forward.”