Patients Taking Their Meds Enters the Rx Conversation

If you don’t take medication it doesn’t work. That seems obvious, right?

It was to a group of health policy wonks sitting in a tucked-away room at the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday—so much so that it elicited a wave of chuckles from the audience. So why do we still have such an adherence problem for patients’ medication? The question was posed by Sebastian Seiguer, CEO and founder of emocha Mobile Health, which uses video technology to make sure patients actually take their meds.

According to Seiguer, 50 percent of medications “are not taken or taken properly” by patients, which means there’s a lot of medication that goes to waste.

“Waste itself isn’t the problem,” he said. “The problem is when patients don’t take those medications those patients’ health won’t be at an optimal level.”

This wasn’t the first time this week I’d heard about drug adherence. The Food and Drug Administration released advice on June 13 to companies making HIV preventative medicine that said they should prioritize dosing that’s simple and infrequent.

“The effectiveness of any intervention for HIV-1 prevention is strongly correlated with adherence,” the guidance document said.

There are lots of reasons patients don’t take their meds, Seiguer said. Patients forget, or they feel better so they stop taking their pills, he said.

But one thing missing from the June 14 panel was drugmakers’ role in drug adherence. Seiguer declined to comment on what the role high drug prices themselves play in patients not sticking to treatment.

“It’s not on the manufacturer here,” Seiguer said. “The rest of the system delivers it. The rest of the system has the incentive to make sure the patient is filling it.”

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