A close friend of my father was recently admitted to the hospital for a heart attack — not his first — and before he was released, I told my dad, “Ask him if he’s picked up his meds yet!” You see, for an article that ran not too long ago in Drug Benefit News, a health plan pharmacy director explained that nonadherence to antiplatelet therapies (e.g., Plavix, Effient) prescribed after a cardiovascular episode is one of the fastest ways to land a patient back in the hospital. As a result, the health plan was working on a major initiative to intervene and make sure patients leave with those pills in hand.
A new study published in the July 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that half of patients hospitalized for a heart attack or heart failure make mistakes with their prescription drugs within a month of checking out of the hospital, which can have serious and/or life-threatening consequences. Of the 50% of 851 study participants who had one or more medication error, about 23% of such errors were considered to be serious, and 1.8% were characterized as life-threatening.
As I research and report more on the growing and very expensive problem of nonadherence, I don’t often hear of medication error as the main reason for repeat medical events. So what kind of “errors” are we talking about? According to HealthDay, some of the leading causes of medication error after hospitalization are:
Obviously, patients not filling their prescriptions after a major medical event is only part of the problem. What can health insurers and PBMs do to address these types of errors to ensure that when patients leave the hospital, they’re not making serious medication errors?