Can Improved Prescription Medication Labeling Influence Adherence to Chronic Medications?

The introduction of a more readable prescription medication label by a pharmacy chain had little effect on medication adherence among chronically-ill patients.

When chronically-ill patients do not follow their medication prescriptions their health often deteriorates. Treating these patients adds over $170 billion in annual costs to the health care system. In 2005, Target pharmacies introduced a more readable prescription medication label. This study assessed whether the new label led chronically-ill patients, suffering any of nine conditions, to be more conscientious about filling their medication prescriptions. The study conducted independent analyses of new users, those filling prescriptions for the first time, and prevalent users, those who held prescriptions for one year prior to the new label. The measures of adherence were an interval-based and monthly proportion of days covered (PDC). The sample consisted of patients holding Horizon and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance.

Key Findings:

  • The Target label had no effect on “new users.”
  • The Target label had insignificant effects on “prevalent users.”

A simple, low-cost intervention that helps patients adhere to medication prescriptions could reduce unnecessary costs to the health care system. This study, however, supports previous findings suggesting that simple interventions are ineffective.