Half of all patients with chronic illnesses don't take their medication as prescribed, says a new report, undermining their health and hastening their death. Patients with illnesses like heart disease and asthma often skip doses, misunderstand prescriptions or drop medication as soon as they feel better. The result is more doctor visits, more hospitalizations, and billions in medical bills.
A federal agency is launching a campaign to combat the problem. Especially at risk are the elderly, those whose diseases are deadly but initially symptom-free, like high blood pressure, and those who recover before their medication has finished fighting infection, such as TB patients. Only 30% of teenagers take their medication to prevent asthma attacks properly. (Read more medicine stories.)