, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 280-281
Date: 02 Mar 2010

Primary Non-adherence of Medications: lifting the veil on prescription-filling behaviors

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Economists say that consumers “vote with their feet”. That is, in order to understand human behavior, we can interpret people's underlying preferences by observing their choices. Unfortunately, in much of the social sciences, researchers are limited in their ability to directly observe people’s choices. This is particularly true when studying the problem of medication adherence. Medication “adherence” is defined as the degree of patient compliance with providers’ recommendations about the daily timing, dosage, and frequency of medication use. This differs from “persistence,” which refers to whether patients continue a treatment for the prescribed duration. Both are difficult to study. Aside from watching patients drop pills into their mouths and swallow them every day (which is clearly infeasible except for extreme circumstances such as directly observed treatment for multidrug resistant tuberculosis or HIV) researchers are left to examine surrogate measures of adherence behaviors.