UGA study: patient-friendly prescription labels improve medication adherence

As many as half of all Americans with chronic diseases like hypertension and depression don’t take their medications as prescribed. And more than 100,000 people die due to medication nonadherence each year, costing upward of $100 billion in preventable health care expenses.

But new research from the University of Georgia suggests tweaking the labels on prescription medication bottles could help patients take their drugs the way their doctors intended.

The study found prescription medication labels that list explicit instructions, for example when to take the medicine or whether the patient should avoid alcohol, can dramatically improve medication adherence to antihypertension medications, contraceptives and asthma controllers.

“In order for medications to work, people have to take them,” said Henry Young, lead author of the study and a professor in UGA’s College of Pharmacy.

At the beginning of the study, only 65% of patients on contraceptives were regularly taking them as prescribed. With the revised labels, that number jumped to 93%. Participants with asthma experienced a similarly impressive jump, going from only a little over a third taking their medications as instructed to 65%.

Those taking antihypertensive medications also saw an increase from about 80% to more than 90%.

“One key implication of these findings is that improved prescription labels may help patients reach high levels of medication adherence and experience health benefits as a result,” Young said. “People with asthma could see fewer hospitalizations and emergency department visits. Those with hypertension could prevent strokes and congestive heart failure. And individuals using contraception could better protect themselves against unintended pregnancies.”



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