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Why aren’t acne patients taking their meds?

Acne is a debilitating condition, no matter how old you are when you get it. Teenage acne contributes to already-formidable teenage angst, and adult acne cam make you stick out like a sore thumb. If that’s the case, then why do as many as 27% of acne patients fail to obtain or use all of their prescription and over the counter acne medicines? That figure, according to a recent study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, is more than double the estimates of previous studies.

“Non-adherence is a pervasive problem in all of medicine, particularly when treating chronic conditions such as acne,” study author Dr. Steven Feldman, a professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a Wake Forest news release.

The study involved 143 acne patients, each directed to use one, two or three or more acne treatments by their dermatologists (including both prescription and over the counter medicines). Those prescribed one medication had a non-adherence rate of about 9%, which jumped to 40% among those prescribed two. Non-adherence improved to 31% among those prescribed three or more medicines, possibly because someone needing three acne medications may have a more serious case.

The study revealed other oddities about acne patients, as well. Prescription medications were more likely to be obtained than over the counter ones, but patients were more likely to fill prescriptions for pills rather than topical creams. They were also less likely to fill paper prescriptions than electronic ones.

The researchers have no definitive explanation for why non-adherence is so high among acne patients. They noted that cost could be an issue, as some prescription acne products aren’t covered by health insurance providers. Acne affects teenagers the most, and teenagers are remarkably forgetful creatures, which may also play a role. Other possible reasons include already having what the patient believes to be similar medication, or outright disagreeing with a physician’s treatment plan.

However, since a single directed medication had the highest adherence rate, the industry may want to move in that direction when producing medicines to treat acne.

“The study showed that patients are more inclined to follow the treatment regimen when only one medication is prescribed,” Feldman said. “Multiple agents are typically required to address the multiple factors that cause acne, but simplifying treatment regimens by prescribing products that contain two or more active ingredients could prove effective in reducing non-adherence.”