Health experts have warned us for years about the abuse and misuse of medication. The so-called prescription drug epidemic takes thousands of lives every year.
But we rarely hear about America’s other drug problem:
We hate taking our meds.
According to a new survey, nearly half of Americans would rather take out the trash than take a prescribed medication. Others would prefer to get a cavity filled. Or get a shot in the arm at the doctor’s office.
“Taking medication is a daily reminder of your illness and your status as a patient so it’s a negative experience that people instinctively want to avoid,” said Dr. Katrina Firlik, co-founder and chief medical officer of HealthPrize Technologies, the Connecticut company that surveyed over 1,000 consumers who were prescribed medications to treat a serious medical condition.
Another 10% would rather deal with the unpleasantness of having a cavity filled and 27% would rather get the shot.
“Psychologically, people tend to prefer actions that offer short-term benefits but most chronic medications provide no short-term benefits — only short-term annoyances,” says Firlik.
But skipping a prescribed medication – or not taking it at all – can worsen health problems. Even people with serious conditions like cancer, heart disease and organ transplants often fail to take their medications as prescribed by doctors – a phenomenon known as “medication non-adherence.”
According to the National Consumers League, 125,000 deaths in the U.S. every year can be linked to people who don’t follow their medication prescriptions. And the failure to take medications leads to $290 billion in otherwise avoidable medical costs.
HealthPrize found a variety of excuses for patients not taking their meds:
- It makes them feel old (25%)
- It makes them feel worried (21%)
- It makes them annoyed and frustrated (14%)
- It makes them sad because it reminds them of their illness (10%)
Among those who don’t follow their doctor’s orders, nearly half (46%) said they did not trust their physician.
Women were less likely (45%) to take their medicines than men (36%).
Money was a major factor for millennials (18 to 34 year olds). Nearly half said paying for gasoline was more important to them than paying for their meds. Over half of millennials (56%) say they never fill their prescriptions, compared to 16% of seniors.
“So people may skip taking or stop refilling their medication altogether even if the long-term risks to their health are enormous. That’s the reality of medication non-adherence that needs to be addressed,” said Firlik.
A recent study by a national drug screening company found that 60% of patients either misused or failed to use their prescription drugs as directed by their physicians. About 42% of the patients were found to have no drugs in their urine samples in 2012. The report speculated that financial constraints may have limited the patients’ ability to buy medications.