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Four out of 10 upstate New Yorkers don't always take their prescriptions


ExcellusBlueCrossBlueShield now has a better idea of why four out of every ten upstate New York adults don’t always take prescriptions as prescribed. The insurance company got the answers from patients through a comprehensive survey.

The issue is important: when people with chronic illnesses take medication as prescribed, their conditions improve, health dollars are used efficiently, and lives are saved. There is also a big concern when people prescribed with antibiotics don’t finish an entire course of their prescription, says Mona Chitre, Excellus’ vice president and chief pharmacy officer.

“We know that in our upstate communities, often our first line and second line antibiotics aren’t working, and some of this is attributed to bacteria becoming resistant to these medications,” said Chitre. “That can then be attributed to we haven’t finished our courses of antibiotics and then have allowed these bacteria to become resistant.”

Chitre says the biggest reason people don’t take their pills is they forget. Other reasons include side effects and the fact the patient is not experiencing symptoms. Cost of prescriptions is not that big a factor, ranking number three.

“It’s actually quite low. It’s only eight percent of the total. So it’s number three, but it’s a very low number three,” said Chitre. “And I would attribute that to most of these chronic conditions except for athsma now have generics available.” 

So Chitre says the goal now is to come up with tools to deal with the problem. That could include anything from an app to remind people to take their pills, to using pill boxes. 

“People who were adherent found that pill boxes, which you can get at a pharmacy, really helped them know which medication they took, how many times a day they had to take them. So pill boxes are a solution,” she said.

The insurance company’s survey also found that central New Yorkers are more compliant than patients in the Rochester area, and tend to talk to doctors more easily about their prescription medicines.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.