COVID-19 Pandemic and Adherence to Therapy: What Can Pharmacists Do?

Medication adherence has long been recognized as an important, if under addressed, barrier to patient health. It can affect both quality and length of life, and overall health care costs. Nonadherence to medications has been correlated to up to 50% of treatment failures, approximately 125,000 deaths, and nearly 25% of hospitalizations per year in the United States.1-4 This impact has been valued at approximately $100 billion annually.5

Proportion of Days Covered (PDC) is the preferred method to measure adherence to chronic medication therapies, according to the Pharmacy Quality Alliance.6 The PDC threshold above which the medication has a reasonable likelihood of achieving the most clinical benefit is 80%. Despite this threshold, the adherence rates for many chronic disease medications are estimated at 50%-60%.2-4

It is likely that in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) era and its aftermath, we may see worsening adherence to therapy due to known factors that affect adherence and others that are unique to what is happening currently. Pharmacists are positioned to mitigate many of these factors.

This article discusses these and how pharmacists can respond to help patients take medications effectively and prevent worsening health outcomes.