Photo of Richard Benson

Nearly half of the 187 million patients in the United States do not take their medicines as prescribed, according to testimony Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

American Heart Association volunteer Richard Benson, the associate medical director of stroke at the MedStar Washington Hospital, told congressional members that the statistic is “both startling and alarming.”

For many cardiovascular disease patients, failing to take medication as scheduled can have fatal consequences, said Benson, who has previously served on AHA’s Missions’ Committee for the Greater Washington Region.

That lack of adherence, he said, leads to nearly 125,000 deaths per year and costs the U.S. health system almost $300 billion annually.

Individuals with a family history of high blood pressure who do not take medication as prescribed are four times more likely to die from a stroke and three times more likely to die from a heart attack, he said.

Benson asked Congress to pass the Medication Therapy Management Empowerment Act of 2015. The legislation, which was introduced in the Senate in March, would allow medication therapy management programs for Medicare beneficiaries with one or more chronic conditions. Currently, 82 percent of those programs are for people with three or more conditions.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Kaiser