Faxed Alerts Do Not Increase Antidepressant Compliance

Faxed feedback to prescribing physician should be evaluated before widespread implementation

TUESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Faxed alerts sent to physicians to let them know that a patient has not refilled an antidepressant prescription do not appear to be effective at boosting patient compliance, researchers report in the March 13 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Kara Z. Bambauer, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues evaluated an antidepressant compliance program at one managed care plan that sent faxed alerts to physicians when a patient had a gap of more than 10 days in refilling an antidepressant prescription during the first six months of treatment. The program began in May 2003 and 13,128 eligible patients began taking antidepressants between May 2002 and May 2004, of which 6,387 began treatment before the faxed alerts and 6,741 began after the alerts.

The compliance rates were similar before and after the program began, at 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively. The percentage of non-adherent patients significantly increased with time and averaged about 75 percent. Overall, patients did not have dispensed antidepressants available on about 40 percent of the days of the study.

"Using real-time pharmacy information to alert physicians regarding patient adherence was not successful in increasing antidepressant adherence rates among members of the managed care plan," Bambauer and colleagues conclude. "Effectiveness of electronically triggered, patient-specific, faxed feedback should be carefully evaluated before widespread implementation, because faxes are insufficient as a stand-alone policy tool."

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