Report: Many Americans fail to fill medical prescriptions

If you go to a doctor, you are likely seeking medical treatment for a condition that is causing you a problem that you would like to have alleviated. In Pennsylvania and around the country, why do so many people who go to a doctor not fill their prescriptions once the doctor writes them?

A recent study shows that this scenario happens with a surprising number of patients. The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, reports that of new prescriptions, approximately one-third are never filled. While one assumption would be that the person for whom the medicine was prescribed does not have insurance to cover the prescription or otherwise cannot afford it, this is not always the case.

An associate professor of family medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine says that she is aware of the fact that some patients do not trust medicine. Even those who have chronic illnesses may not take their medication when their symptoms are not bothering them. She puts some of the responsibility on the doctor to spend enough time with the patient to make sure that they understand the reasons for the medication, how to take it and any potential side effects.

Doctors, clinics and hospitals should take responsibility for ensuring that patients understand a doctor’s directions.

Unfortunately, many Pittsburgh residents may have grown weary of prescription medications due to reports of medication errors. While rare, doctors do sometimes write flawed prescriptions—these might include the wrong dosages, the wrong medication entirely or a prescription that is dangerous for the patient for another reason. Medication errors can result in serious injuries and even death in some cases. Patients should be able to trust their doctors to meet certain standards and to follow a set of best practices when prescribing medications. When physicians do make medication errors, patients may benefit from talking to a medical malpractice attorney about their rights.

Source:, “Ignoring doctor’s orders: Not filling new prescription is common patient habit, study shows,” Angela Townsend, April 1, 2014