Did You Know?? Fear of Meds Reduces Patient Adherence

Pharmacy Times
Volume 0

Patients may decide not to fill a prescription or take a medication because of potential adverse effects.

Dr. Zanni is a psychologist and health-systemsspecialist based inAlexandria, Virginia.

According to a recent survey byHarris Interactive, 46% ofadults are extremely or veryconcerned about adverse reactionswhen taking prescription drugs asdirected. The same Harris poll foundthat patients' fears impact adherence.The following were reported among alladults who have ever taken prescriptiondrugs1:

  • 35% decided not to take a medicationbecause of potential adverse effects
  • 27% decided not to fill a prescriptionbecause of potential adverse effects
  • 94% stopped taking a medicationafter they experienced an adverseeffect

Although 46% of patients have fearsconcerning potential adverse effects,pharmacists spend <25% of their timeconsulting with patients.2 Reasons forthis disconnect are well known by allpharmacists&#8212;understaffing and timemanagement.

What Do Patients Want to Know?

Patients are concerned with 4 essentialaspects with regard to medicationinformation: the agent's purpose, sideeffects, directions for taking it, and thedos and don'ts associated with theagent.3 Most patients prefer receivinginformation from practitioners, but 160million Americans also turn to theInternet; 84% of all online adults searchthe Internet an average of 5.7 timesper month for health information, andup to 55% of this group query physicianson Internet information.4 Patientsalso react to media health news; it isnot unusual for patients to bombardpractitioners with questions aftermedia reports on FDA recalls andblack-box warnings. It should be notedthat 86% of Americans aged 50 andolder hold favorable opinions of pharmacists&#8212;a statistic that exceedsfavorable opinions of physicians (84%).5

Related Health Care Polls

Pollsters are regularly assessingAmericans' health care beliefs andactions. The Table summarizes some ofthe more recent results. Please notethat survey findings should be viewedcautiously; sampling error, sample size,wording, interviewer effects, and participantrefusal affect accuracy.Although pollsters hope their surveysamples represent a cross section ofthe population, sampling error alwaysexists.



  • Harris Interactive. Large numbers of people are not very confident in their own knowledge and the safety of prescription medications and this often leads to non-adherence. Healthcare News. April 18, 2007;1-5. www.harrisinteractive.com. Accessed December 1, 2007.
  • Barrett L. Pharmacists' attitudes and practices regarding generic drugs. www.aarp.org. Accessed December 1, 2005.
  • Dickinson D, Raynor DK. What information do patients need about medicines? Ask the patients--they may want to know more than you think. BMJ. 2003;861.
  • Harris Interactive. Harris Poll shows number of "cyberchondriacs"&#8212;adults who have ever gone online for health information&#8212;increases to an estimated 160 million nationwide. The Harris Poll. July 31, 2007. www.harrisinteractive.com. Accessed December 1, 2007.
  • Harris Interactive. Six million people have bought prescription drugs online; most are satisfied. The Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll. March 23, 2004. www.harrisinteractive.com. Accessed December 1, 2007.
  • Skufca L. Are Americans age 45+ using prescription drugs wisely: a 2006 study. www.aarp.org. Accessed December 1, 2007.
  • AARP. The bulletin poll: healthcare. AARP Bulletin. November 2007:4. www.aarp.org. Accessed December 1, 2007.

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