Preferences for and Experiences with Pill Appearance Changes: National Surveys of Patients and Pharmacists
Rachel E. Barenie
Medication nonadherence occurs when patients do not take their medications as prescribed and can be due to numerous factors, such as side effects and high drug costs. Ultimately, nonadherence is tied to poorer patient outcomes and billions of dollars in healthcare spending annually. One possible contributor to nonadherence is the lack of consistency in the appearance of a patient’s medication.
In this new study, PORTAL researchers collaborated with the US Food and Drug Administration to better understand patients’ and pharmacists’ preference for and experiences with changes in pill appearance. These included changes in the size, shape, color, and markings of medications. We conducted two independent surveys of practicing pharmacists and patients between January and April of 2016. Patients were 50 years or older and taking medications for one of six chronic diseases. We probed more about how often these changes were occurring, what their (both patients and pharmacists) responses to the changes were, and others.
The study found that most patients reported experiencing a change in their pill’s appearance and preferred to be notified about those changes. Fewer than half the patients participating in the survey, however, reported being notified either verbally or with a sticker on their prescription bottle about the change. Of patients who reported a change, 12% reported they either stopped taking or used their medication less frequently because of the change. We found that most pharmacists reported that these changes occurred frequently in their pharmacies and most reported notifying patients when a change occurred.