HIBBING — It happens all the time. You feel sick, you go to the doctor, they prescribe a medicine. A few days later, feeling better, you decide you don’t need the medication any longer and you stop taking it.

“Studies have consistently shown that 20 percent to 30 percent of medication prescriptions are never filled, and that approximately 50 percent of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed,” reads a recent review in the Annals of Internal Medicine, an academic medical journal published by the American College of Physicians (ACP).

Unfortunately, this lack of adherence can have deadly and expensive consequences.

As the reviews authors point out, non-adherence is estimated to cause

approximately 125,000 deaths, at least 10 percent of hospitalizations and costs the American health care system between $100 to $289 billion a year.

One of the more important consequences of these findings is a better understand why so many patients don’t see improvement, suffer relapses or even die when prescribed medications designed to mitigate the risks of their disorders.

A study by Northwestern University shows that a third of kidney transplant patients don’t take their anti-rejection medications, and 41 percent of heart attack patients don’t take their blood pressure medications.

As explained by the review’s authors, some of the primary reasons why patients don’t take their medications or take them improperly is due to the costs of the medication, worrisome side-effects and the plain old-fashioned beliefs that you take a pill when you are sick.

However, the review is quick to point out that not all types of medical disorders can be improved through a greater adherence to medication.

“We found the most consistent evidence for improved health outcomes attributable to better medication adherence for patients with hypertension, heart failure, depression and asthma,” the review stated.

With St. Louis County having some of the highests rates of hypertension, obesity, heart failure and depression in the state, the results of the review make it clear that medication adherence can lead to better health outcomes for individuals suffering from those disorders.

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