Patient Safety & Clinical Risk Management

No matter how serious a medical condition is, there are patients who do not use their medications as prescribed. Nonadherence is found even among those patients with serious conditions. A recent study found that 11 percent of women with breast cancer did not take prescribed oral hormonal therapy. Another study determined that only about 20 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis used disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs correctly.

We are living in an age of modern medicine, in which technology and pharmacology have rendered once-fatal conditions treatable, or merely chronic. However, the great irony of this historic leap into the future of medicine is that many patients have yet to reap its benefits. A host of hurdles may interfere with successful pharmacotherapy even after a condition is diagnosed and a prescription is written: drug availability, cost, outdated or contaminated medications, drug interactions, and, perhaps most insidious, nonadherence to a prescribed course of treatment.