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Pharmacists' efforts to contact patients or physicians do not improve refills for chronic disease medications

Research Activities, June 2009, No. 346

Taking prescribed medications has been shown to decrease symptoms and improve quality of life for many patients suffering from chronic diseases. Yet many of these patients fail to refill their prescriptions on a timely basis. Efforts by community-based pharmacists to telephone patients with chronic disease or fax their physician when medication refills are overdue do not improve refill persistence, concludes a new study.

Barbara C. Tilley, Ph.D., of the Medical University of South Carolina, and colleagues randomly assigned 3,048 patients overdue for drug refills for common chronic diseases to three treatment groups: pharmacist contacts the patient via telephone, pharmacist contacts the patient's prescribing physician via fax, and usual care. They obtained refill data from a centralized database that included nine pharmacies within a South Carolina grocery store chain.

The median medication copay was $11, and most patients (89 percent) had some type of insurance coverage. There were no significant differences among the three groups in the number of days from their recommended refill date until the patients filled a prescription for any medication relevant to their chronic diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, and heart failure). The time-to-refill was shorter (but not significantly) among patients in the usual care group compared with patients in the phone patient and fax physician groups. Thus, neither approach was more effective than usual care for improving refill prescriptions. Diabetes was the only disease showing a possible benefit of the phone patient group, since they had better outcomes than counterparts receiving usual care, but analysis suggested the difference was not significant. The study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10871).

See "Two pharmacy interventions to improve refill persistence for chronic disease medications," by Paul J. Nietert, Ph.D., Dr. Tilley, Wenle Zhao, Ph.D., and others, in the January 2009 Medical Care 47(1), pp. 32-40.

Current as of June 2009
Internet Citation: Pharmacists' efforts to contact patients or physicians do not improve refills for chronic disease medications: Research Activities, June 2009, No. 346. June 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.