Health Team

Study: Education, Convenience Increase Patient Drug Compliance

Posted December 5, 2006 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated December 5, 2006 9:50 p.m. EST

— For many people, keeping track of many medications is part of getting older, but remembering which pills to take and when can be difficult. A new study shows elderly people take, on average, only 60 percent of their medications.

A pilot program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., was designed to increase adherence to daily medication requirements. The results of the study, which focused on patient education, patient follow-up and convenient blister packs that contain all of a patient's pills and instructions for when to take them, are published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"In the study, we found that medication adherence improved from 61 percent before the program to over 96 percent," said Dr. Allen Taylor of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "There's a chain of responsibility here -- the doctor to pick the right pill, the patient to be willing to take the pill and understand the pill and then the medical care system to deliver that pill in a way that's convenient."

Study participants had Army health benefits, so they don't have to pay for prescriptions. That ensured medication costs wouldn't be a reason for participants missing prescribed dosages.

Patients' overall health, including blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improved as well in the study, Taylor said.

Birdie Gelfer, 92, participated in the study and said it helped her keep track of her long list of medications. She said the program should be available to everyone.

"I take 15 doses of pills every day. Some I take twice a day," Gelfer said. "They took (away) all the worrying of remembering and fussing with the vials."