If you struggle with breakouts and blemishes, a visit to the dermatologist most often concludes with a treatment plan and a prescription in hand. The obvious next stop is the pharmacy. But according to a recent study, more than a quarter of patients skip picking up their meds altogether.
Acne treatments are known to test patience and require solid commitment, but it’s no surprise that effectiveness depends heavily on adherence to the prescribed routine. Using them is key, yes, but step one is getting the goods.
Researchers with JAMA Dermatology found that of the 143 acne patients they studied, 27 percent did not fill their prescriptions or pick up their over-the-counter products. Those prescribed two medications had an even higher rate of nonadherence at 40 percent.
Why are so many people quitting before they start? Bruce Katz, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology and director of the Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Clinic at Mount Sinai Medical Center, doesn’t find these statistics surprising.
“We see this in our practice all of the time. People forget to fill the prescriptions, or lose them, find them too expensive, or are just not that motivated to clear up their skin.”
The research also proved that the easier the skincare regimen, the more likely people are willing to give it a shot. Topical meds were less likely to be filled than oral treatments. People were even more likely to visit the pharmacy if they received an electronic prescription versus a slip of paper.
Adherence proves to be best when only one treatment is prescribed. Being told that it's necessary to take three medications a day sounds overwhelming and for many, out of their budget.
Cost is a major factor in noncompliance. High deductibles force many to pay out of pocket and handing over cash for one med versus three is a lot easier on the wallet.
Dermatologists also need to do a better job at helping patients understand what each of their prescribed medications do and why they’re important. Acne is a result of so many factors and therefore it’s often recommended that patients try a multifaceted approach at treatment: from creams and toners in the morning, to washes and salves at night, knowing what goes where and why may inspire more patients to follow through.