National Consumers League

Lots to talk about during Talk about Prescriptions Month

burkholder1By Rebecca Burkholder, NCL Vice President for Health Policy October is Talk about Prescriptions Month, and with 50 percent of Americans taking at least one or more prescription drugs, there are a lot of conversations that need to happen. If you are taking a prescription medication, always ask your doctor or pharmacist why you are taking the medication, its name, how to take it properly, and if there are any side effects. Taking medication as directed is important to obtain the full benefits of the medication; this is especially true if you are taking a medication for a chronic condition.

How you access your medications is also important. This month FDA reminds us that if you buy your medications on line, do so safely. Earlier this month a report released from the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) emphasized that with the increased number of Americans with chronic conditions, proper use of mediation is more important than ever.  Today, 27 percent of Americans are living with multiple chronic conditions, and 68 percent (21.4 million people) of Medicare beneficiaries are being treated for at least two concurrent chronic illnesses. Treating multiple chronic conditions accounts for 66 percent of the nation’s health expenditures.  

Of the $300 billion Medicare spent in 2010 on health care, the price tag for treating the 14 percent of beneficiaries with six or more conditions was over $140 billion.  For these patients, poor medication adherence is commonplace and they are at higher risk for medication-related problems and the costly emergency room visits and hospitalizations that can result. The new report, Accelerating Progress in Prescription Medicine Adherence: The Adherence Action Agenda, which was based on input from 23 organizations, including NCL - underscores that as morbidity, mortality and health care costs rise action needs to be taken quickly to improve adherence among Americans living with multiple diseases.  The report outlines a 10-point action agenda that advocates for an increased focus on multiple chronic conditions and policy and programmatic solutions for improving adherence.  

For practical tips on taking medications as directed, especially if you have a chronic condition, see NCL’s Script Your Future website.   In addition to being careful about taking our medications, Americans also need to continue to be mindful about where they purchase medications, especially if buying online. Buying medicines from fraudulent Web sites – which often look legitimate – puts your health at risk because the products may contain the wrong ingredients, too little or too much of the active ingredient, or they might be made with other harmful substances. As a result, consumers may not receive the therapy they need, or they may experience unexpected side effects and possibly get worse. The FDA campaign, BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy Web site has a new video featuring FDA’s Health Fraud Coordinator Gary Coody, who explains how to avoid fake online pharmacies. In addition to the “how to” video, the BeSafeRx Web site provides an interactive map for checking a pharmacy’s license through states’ boards of pharmacy, fact sheets, and other materials. For more information about counterfeit drugs, check out our information at