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Characteristics of Prescriptions That Are Abandoned at the Pharmacy FREE

[+] Article and Author Information

The summary below is from the full report titled “The Epidemiology of Prescriptions Abandoned at the Pharmacy.” It is in the 16 November 2010 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 153, pages 633-640). The authors are W.H. Shrank, N.K. Choudhry, M.A. Fischer, J. Avorn, M. Powell, S. Schneeweiss, J.N. Liberman, T. Dollear, T.A. Brennan, and M.A. Brookhart.


Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(10):I-42. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-153-10-201011160-00002
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Providers can prescribe medications in different ways: by handing a paper prescription directly to the patient, calling or faxing the prescription to the pharmacy, or sending the prescription to the pharmacy electronically (via a computer). Except when patients receive medications through the mail, the patient or his or her representative must go to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription. Sometimes patients do not pick up their prescrip-tions; this can be costly to the pharmacy, and patients may experience bad health conse-quences if they do not take medications that are prescribed. Medical records may be inaccurate if they indicate that patients are taking medications when they in fact are not.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To find out how often prescriptions are not picked up at pharmacies and whether it is possible to predict if a particular prescription will be picked up. By doing this, they hoped to be able to design interventions that would decrease how often prescriptions are abandoned at pharmacies.

Who was studied?

The researchers did not study people. Instead, they looked at data about prescriptions.

How was the study done?

The researchers used data from millions of prescriptions written for patients whose drug insurance was managed by a national pharmacy benefits company. They linked the information about those prescriptions to the records of a large pharmacy chain to see which prescriptions had been picked up.

What did the researchers find?

Almost all prescriptions were picked up within 1 month after the health care provider wrote the prescription. However, prescriptions given to a patient for the first time, prescriptions for drugs that were delivered to the pharmacy electronically, and prescriptions for which patients have a higher copayment were more likely to never be picked up.

What were the limitations of the study?

The prescriptions studied were almost all provided for patients who had insurance and who filled their prescriptions at a single large pharmacy chain. The researchers could not be certain whether patients never came to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription or whether they came to the pharmacy but then decided not to pick up the prescription.

What are the implications of the study?

When patients do not pick up prescriptions, they may jeopardize their health. In addition, their medical records may be inaccurate because the information in those records will lead providers to believe that medicines are not working, when in fact they were never taken. The information from this study may help pharmacies predict which prescriptions will not be filled and to design programs to make it easier for patients to fill their prescriptions.

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