Prescription abandonment doesn't have to be a growing trend | LowestMed

If there was a simple way to curb prescription abandonment while improving medication adherence, would you act on it? Prescription abandonment is a large contributor to the growing trend of medication adherence issues. If prescription abandonment can be slowed or stopped, medication adherence will improve.

Medication adherence and prescription abandonment are related but not the same. Medication adherence is defined as patients taking their medications as prescribed (e.g. once daily for 30 days).  Whereas prescription abandonment is when patients leave their prescriptions at pharmacies and never pick them up. It’s one thing to skip a day or two of your medications and not adhere to your doctor’s prescribed instructions. It’s another to never pick it up.

Prescription abandonment is not a new issue to retail pharmacies, but it is becoming more prevalent.  Fortunately there is a solution to this expanding issue. First, it is important to understand the top indicators for patients who abandon their prescriptions.

Why are patients leaving prescriptions unfilled at pharmacies? According to a study conducted by Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and CVS Health, patients leave their prescriptions for a number of reasons with “cost” topping the list.

The most likely prescription abandonment candidates fall into 4 categories:

  1. Cost
  2. Past Pharmacy Behavior
  3. Age
  4. Drug Class

 

Cost
According to the study, cost is the leading predictor of Rx abandonment. By reviewing the patient’s benefit plan and co-pay schedule, the study found lower rates of abandonment for patients with co-pays of $10 (1.4%). Individuals with $30 and $40 co-pays abandoned significantly more at 3.4%. How about a $50 co-pay? You guessed it – an even higher rate of abandonment: 4.7%. That’s nearly four times the rate of the first group.

Past Pharmacy Behavior
The second group likely to abandon their medications are patients filling the medication for the first time. These patients abandon their Rx three times more than those refilling a prescription.

Age
According to the study, age plays a role in abandonment.  Older patients will pick up their meds, while young patients tend to abandon them.

Drug Class
The type of drug prescribed makes a difference too. The study said patients are more likely to pick up opiates, anti-platelets and statins while leaving insulin and proton pump inhibitors on the pharmacy shelves.

Outside of these groups, the study also concluded that patients prescribed via e-prescriptions were 65% more likely to abandon their prescription versus patients with hand-written ones. It is important to note that e-prescriptions are easily tracked, whereas hand-written prescriptions are not.

 

What Can You Do to Lower Prescription Abandonment Rates?

A simple solution for pharmacists and pharmacy managers to lower the Rx abandonment rate is to help patients right at the point of sale. Every day, many patients travel to pharmacies but leave without their medications due to price. You can help lower prescription prices instantly!

According to Reagan Tully, VP of Strategy and Marketing at McKesson, “Patient savings tools are a solution to the growing problem of financially motivated prescription abandonment.”

Use Savings Tools

There are many discount cards, coupons, and online tools that can be used to lower the price of a prescription regardless of insurance status or insurance co-pay.  This can have an immediate impact by saving a patient from abandoning a prescription, not to mention increasing loyalty to a pharmacy. For patients abandoning due to price, pharmacy staff can stop them at the counter and educate them about such tools. Better yet, the staff can use these tools on the patient’s behalf.

LowestMed is one such source for tools, coupons and discount cards that help lower prescription prices for patients. Use the search tool [link to: home page] on LowestMed.com, download the free app (iOS [link to: App Store listing] and Android [link to: Play Store listing]), or request discount cards/coupons (link to: https://www.lowestmed.com/pharmacy-discount-card/).

Although prescription abandonment and medication adherence are growing trends in healthcare, there are ways to curb both by using cost-cutting tools at the pharmacy counter. What difference can you make at your pharmacy?

Sources:
http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=746421
http://www.mckesson.com/blog/leveraging-patient-savings-programs-to-reduce-prescription-abandonment/