NCL to Launch Fifth Annual Medication Adherence Challenge

At the end of the challenge, select schools and their teams will be recognized nationally for their efforts to improve medication adherence.

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January marks the launch of the fifth annual Medication Adherence Team Challenge, a two-month-long intercollegiate competition coordinated by the National Consumers League (NCL).

The competition among health profession student teams and faculty aims to create solutions to raise awareness about medication adherence as a critical public health issue.

Script Your Future is a national campaign led by the NCL to raise awareness about the importance of medication adherence as a vital first step toward better health outcomes.

From January 19 through March 18 inter-professional teams—including student pharmacists, nurses, doctors, and others—will reach out to their communities with creative approaches to raise awareness and improve understanding about medication adherence.

At the end of the challenge, select schools and their teams will be recognized nationally for their efforts to improve medication adherence.

Since its first year in 2011, the challenge has expanded to include other health professions. Over the last three years, the emphasis has been on the inter-professional health care team.

"Nearly half of Americans--133 million--are diagnosed with at least one long-term health condition, like asthma or diabetes," NCL's vice president of health policy Rebecca Burkholder told eWEEK. "People with these common conditions take their medicine as directed only 50 to 60 percent of the time. When people with chronic conditions struggle to take medicines as directed there can be serious health consequences, including the worsening of a condition, such as shortness of breath if you have asthma."

She explained not taking your medicine as directed can also lead to other health problems, especially if you already have asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

"Approximately 125,000 people die each year in the United States because of not taking medicine as directed. About one third of medicine-related hospital admissions in the United States are linked to non-adherence," she said. "Not only does poor adherence cost patients their health, but it also costs the country nearly $300 billion each year in additional costs for doctor visits, emergency room visits, hospital admissions and additional medicine."

She said one of the best hopes the country has for changing its culture of non-adherence is to train the next generation of health care professionals to be proactive about engaging their patients--something that starts in the classroom through the innovation of students and faculty.

She noted the success of the first Script Your Future Adherence Challenge in October 2011 demonstrated the power of academic and student pharmacists to reach out to their communities and engage patients and caregivers to improve health through better adherence.

"To move the needle on medication adherence, each member of the health care team needs to do his or her part," Burkholder said. "Pharmacists, doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacy technicians, and all other health professionals have a unique perspective on medication adherence. With the challenge’s emphasis on inter-professional collaboration, diverse student teams will tackle the problem of poor adherence."