Schizophrenia patients don't take medications regularly

Despite improved drugs for schizophrenia a devastating mental illness that affects more than 2 million Americans and one percent of the world's population a new study shows that only 41 percent of patients take their antipsychotic medication on a regular basis. Researchers also found that out-patient and hospital medical costs are significantly higher in the patients who are not regularly adherent to a prescribed drug regimen.

Twenty-four percent of the patients are non-adherent and 17 percent are only partially compliant to a prescribed drug schedule, according to the study published in the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. A surprising finding was a high percentage of schizophrenia patients 19 percent identified as "excess fillers." This means that they filled their prescriptions more frequently than prescribed.

According to the researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, the findings point to a need for improved management of schizophrenia patients by all members of the treatment team, including physicians, pharmacists, family members and case management workers in community health settings.

"Estimating the medical costs of non-adherence might also provide an incentive for insurers to allocate resources to improve adherence in patients with schizophrenia," said the study's senior author, Dilip Jeste, M.D., UCSD professor of psychiatry and neurosciences and the Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging. "Hospital expenditures, for example, are more than three times higher among those who are non-adherent than are expenditures for patients who take their medication on schedule."

Jeste, who is also director of the UCSD Stein Institute on Aging and a geriatric psychiatrist with the VA San Diego Healthcare System, noted that just as the partial- and non-adherent group experienced excessive medical costs, so did the excess fillers. A little more than half of the exc

Contact: Sue Pondrom
University of California - San Diego

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