NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 12, 2006

Noncompliance with medical treatment regimens can result in recurring or persistent illness, excessive tests and avoidable hospitalizations, according to the New York Times.

At least half of patients fail to comply with prescribed treatments.

In addition:

  • The misuse or nonuse of prescribed medications is estimated to add nearly $200 billion each year to the cost of medical care.
  • Noncompliance is especially prevalent in patients being treated for chronic diseases that might not have apparent symptoms, such as hypertension and diabetes.

Patients with relapsing diseases often discontinue their medications once they feel better and then fail to inform their doctors. In patients taking antidepressants, roughly half stop taking the drugs after a year because they feel better, and one-quarter fail to inform their doctors. This can prompt doctors to order more tests or prescribe another treatment, the Times reports.

While there are a number of reasons for not following through on orders -- which include practicality and side effects -- one of the most common causes of noncompliance is poor communication by physicians, says the Times.

Source: Jane E. Brody, "Just What the Doctor Ordered? Not Exactly," New York Times, May 9, 2006.

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