New pharmacy professorship aims at medication adherence

Videography by Sam Hostettler

Millions rely on pharmaceutical products to better their health, but as former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop once said, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.”

The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy has received funding from Takeda Pharmaceuticals for a new professorship for the study of medication adherence and how health outcomes can be improved when patients take the right dose of medicine at the right time.

Nearly half of all Americans have at least one chronic condition such as diabetes, heart failure and high blood pressure, but only about half of those prescribed medication for their condition take it as directed, says Daniel Touchette, UIC associate professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy and the recipient of the Takeda Professorship in Medication Adherence.

Studies have shown that non-adherence to long-term therapy adds to total health care costs. Touchette said in the U.S. poor medication adherence can cost $100 billion to $289 billion annually.

“Regularly assessing patient adherence; improving communication between patient, physician and pharmacist; and addressing identified barriers can improve adherence,” he said.

Medication adherence is a complicated issue, Touchette said, and forgetfulness is just one barrier. Cost, side effects, embarrassment and difficulty understanding instructions are other factors, he said.

Touchette is now developing programs that will improve medication adherence in an efficient way. A few successful programs exist that help patients with HIV and renal disease. The key, Touchette said, is to educate patients about their disease and how the medications work and to identify barriers so they can be addressed.

“Our challenge is to do this in a large population,” Touchette said.

With more than 20 percent of patients choosing not to fill or begin their prescriptions and about 30 percent discontinuing a new prescription within the first six months, medication adherence in the U.S. is a growing concern, said Dr. Charlie Baum, vice president and head of medical affairs at Takeda.

“These statistics are incredibly alarming,” Baum said. “As so many of us know, the best outcomes and quality measures come from patients who stick to their regimens. If you look at these statistics, this implies that in many cases patients are not fully treated for conditions their doctors deem treatable through medication.

“To partner with a local university with the reputation of UIC in support of this type of meaningful and complex research is both unique and exciting.”

Located in Deerfield, Ill., Takeda Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, the largest pharmaceutical company in Japan.

Founded in 1859, the UIC College of Pharmacy is one of the oldest colleges of pharmacy in the nation and is the oldest academic unit of the University of Illinois.  The college is consistently ranked nationally among the top 20 for scholarship, curriculum, and quality of faculty and in the top five for federal research funding.


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