An incredible thing is taking place in this country: A politician is taking the nation's pulse on health care by actually touching base with regular citizens and asking them their opinions. But this no ordinary politician; it is the president of the United States. Imagine that, a president who actually wants to listen to what Americans have to say. President Obama has pledged that senior officials in his administration will have "open conversations with everyday Americans, local, state, and federal elected officials, both Democrat and Republican." These regional forums, which are taking place in California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, and Vermont, will also include health care professionals and providers. The results will help shape the framework of any kind of future health care reform.
Over the years far too many pharmacists have expressed to me their concerns that nobody really cares about their plights, especially the government. I say to each and every one of you, there are no more excuses. There is no better time to have your voices heard than now. Pharmacists are more important to the structure of our health care system than ever before. These tough economic times have taken their toll on patients, many of whom have become less compliant and persistent in taking their medications. Research shows that noncompliance kills more Americans each year than accidents, flu, and pneumonia combined. The statistics are startling. It is estimated that approximately 125,000 people die annually because of non-compliance. Over half of prescriptions written for chronic diseases are never picked up, and only a third of patients are complying with recommended therapies when they do take their medications.
And not only is noncompliance taking its toll on patients' health; it also adds to this country's economic crisis. It is estimated that the overall cost to the health care industry from noncompliance is approximately $45 billion. For example, noncompliance increases the number of hospital admissions at a cost of $15 billion and nursing home admissions at a cost of around $30 billion. And while forced unemployment continues to be a major issue today's economy, it is estimated that those patients who still have jobs and who either do not take their medications correctly or do not take them at all add about $1.5 billion in lost workdays.
There is an opportunity for pharmacists to make a difference in reversing noncompliance issues, and it should not be dismissed with the same apathy I've seen in the past. I'm not suggesting that each of you personally attend the president's regional health care meetings, but I am encouraging all of you to make your voices heard through state and national legislators as well as state and national pharmaceutical associations.
While there is never a problem getting pharmacists to talk up during a meeting of their peers, for some strange reason getting them to make their points known nationally is quite another matter. Now is the time to join and become active in the pharmacy association of your choice if you do not already belong. Undoubtedly, this country is going to see some kind of health care reform in the not-too-distant future, and pharmacists must play a major role in its implementation if we are going to move the profession forward.
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