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Published on February 19, 2014

UHS and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield partner to encourage prescription adherence

UHS and Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield today launched a community engagement campaign to help protect people against deteriorating health conditions, hospitalizations and sometimes deaths that can result when they don’t take their prescription medications as directed.

The centerpiece of the campaign is a stylized prescription bottle called TAD, for “Take As Directed,” adorned with a superhero cape and utility belt. The TAD superhero conveys simple messages about the importance of medication adherence.

According to the American Heart Association, poor medication adherence takes the lives of 125,000 Americans annually and costs the health care system nearly $300 billion a year in additional doctor visits, emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

"When it comes to fighting chronic conditions, a prescription drug can be a superhero, but it only works if patients let it," explained Dr. MaryBeth McCall, medical director of Excellus BCBS.    “A key message of the campaign is that ‘If you’re not taking your prescriptions as directed, you’re taking a chance.’” 

Doctors can do remarkable things with prescription medications to improve the health and quality of life of people suffering from a wide variety of chronic medical conditions,”  Suzanne Whalen, Supervising Pharmacist at our UHS Vestal Pharmacy.   “But too often, patients fail to have new prescriptions filled, or they take the medication less frequently than prescribed, or they stop taking the medication altogether.” 

There are a variety of reasons why people don’t take their medication as directed.  For some, it’s too expensive or inconvenient to have the prescription filled or refilled.   Others may worry about side effects or feel that they feel fine without taking it.  Still others may simply forget to take the medication when they should, especially if they take multiple medications on difference schedules.

Prescription medications play a vital role in the nation’s health care system.  From 2007 to 2010, about half of the total U.S. population and 90 percent of adults age 60 and older used at least one prescription drug during the past month, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Over the past decade, the number of people using five or more prescription drugs increased by 70 percent, according to the CDC.  These statistics are cited in a recently published fact sheet from Excellus BCBS, titled “The facts about prescription drug use and medication adherence.”  

“Getting people to take their medication as directed is one of the most effective interventions that our upstate communities can take to improve the health of local residents,” said Dr. McCall.

In the coming months, TAD will be carrying his message to the public through a series of print ads, outdoor billboards and a radio spot.  A television ad is planned for the future.  The public education campaign highlights a website, ExcellusBCBS/TakeAsDirected, that offers information and suggestions about what people can do to overcome barriers that may prevent them from taking their prescriptions.  The website is open to the public.  Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #TakeAsDirected.