(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical division is taking steps to assure that patients take their medication according to doctors’ orders, The Jerusalem Post learned on Monday.
Although the ministry does not have accurate figures regarding the phenomenon of patient compliance in Israel, the Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical division head, Dr. Eyal Schwartzberg, believes they are similar to those in most developed countries, causing a loss of tens of millions of shekels annually and endangering the health of chronically ill patients.
In the US alone, for example, failure to comply in taking prescribed drugs cost $320 billion a year.
Just two weeks ago, a systematic review on the cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed was published in The Cochrane Library, the UK-based collection of databases containing high-quality, independent evidence to promote informed decision- making.
In a review of 182 clinical trials since 2007, it found that only half of patients take their medications as prescribed. Many patients stop purchasing or taking prescribed medication altogether, while others do not follow the instructions for taking it properly.
Schwartzberg announced another Health Ministry innovation, in which pharmacists in chain and private pharmacies will be invited to set up consultation rooms on the premises to test customers for their blood pressure, weight, height, and level of HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar levels over three months) in non-diabetics, as well as for diabetic-foot sores.
While the pharmacies may charge for this service, according to Schwartzberg there is no need for this.
The consultation rooms will become mandatory at new pharmacies and optional at existing ones, he said.
After this, Schwartzberg hopes that pharmacists undergo a 50-hour training course at medical schools for administering flu shots, for which they may also charge.
At present, there are long queues at the autumn/winter influenza season for free shots at health fund clinics.
As for compliance in taking prescription medications, Schwartzberg said that a number of “stakeholders” – including the pharmaceutical companies, public heath funds and chronically ill patients, would be involved.
The proposed instructions have been sent to senior ministry officials, the Manufacturers Association, district pharmacists, representatives of the pharmaceuticals industry and patients’ groups for comments before the program begins in a few weeks.
“The lack of health literacy in numerous sectors in the population has a major share in the failure of many patients’ not following through and taking their drugs,” he said. “Another is that the poor cannot afford the copayments for drugs, so they purchase only some of those they are prescribed by doctors.”
“We must raise public awareness that when they [patients] are prescribed medications for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and other conditions, it is very important to take them as instructed to prevent a decline in their health,” Schwartzberg said.
Patients’ privacy will be absolutely protected when they seek “objective, not commercial or advertising information” from the drug companies, patients’ groups and other sources, he said.
Pharmaceutical firms will not be able to praise their products or bad-mouth their competitors, and the entire consultation process will be supervised to prevent abuse, he said.
Information regarding medication is also set to be available online. Patients will be able to enter a personal code and receive objective advice about treatment for their specific conditions.
The service would also be available via the phone.
In addition, booklets on diseases and medications will be distributed, as well as a video that explains how to properly take medications.
While countries around the world are looking for ways to boost compliance in taking prescribed drugs, according to Schwartzberg, “We are the first who will do this nationally through regulation.”