SINGAPORE: On Friday (Jan 6), Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) underlined the importance of keeping track of how many patients at outpatient clinics in Singapore’s hospitals and polyclinics do not collect their medication, as well as determining the reasons why they decline to do so, especially if these reasons have to do with financial concerns.

“Understanding why patients decline prescribed medication is important for improving healthcare outcomes,” he wrote in a Facebook post linking to his blog, where he explored the matter further.

Data concerning the declining collection of medicine over the past five years was the subject of a question he had raised in Parliament in November last year.

However, “a recent reply to my parliamentary question revealed that MOH doesn’t track” this data, wrote Mr Giam, adding, “Despite non-cost factors being significant, the financial burden remains a concern for some.”

Mr Giam had also asked the Health Minister, Mr Ong Ye Kung, the average price of medication that patients declined to collect, the common reasons they gave for not collecting their medicines, and whether MOH would consider collecting this data if it is not currently doing so.

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Mr Ong told him that MOH does not track the number of times patients from specialist outpatient clinics at public hospitals and polyclinics declined to collect their prescribed medication, nor does it monitor the average price of such medication.

He added, however, that a research study published last March “concluded that a wide range of non-cost-related factors influenced medication adherence. This includes concern about side effects, lack of knowledge of the medication and the disease.”

In his blog post, Mr Giam wrote that his question about patients declining to collect their medicines stemmed from a concern that had been brought up to him concerning whether the cost of medication could be a reason for the non-collection.

The Aljunied MP added that he looked up the research Mr Ong had likely been referring to and highlighted the following part.

“Although financial issues were not mentioned as a factor substantially hindering medication adherence, a minority of participants expressed that paying for regular prescriptions could be a burden for the family in the long term and hence would likely impede medication adherence. As one participant described: ‘The new oral medication for my diabetes was so costly as it was not covered by subsidies. My family is not well-off. So I stopped the medication’.” (#4, M, 71)”

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Mr Giam then said that the issue is a matter of concern because it can worsen medical conditions and higher healthcare costs due to delayed and more intensive treatment.

“Understanding non-collection reasons is vital for healthcare providers and policymakers to craft effective strategies for boosting medication adherence. These include addressing cost-related and other barriers,” he wrote, pointing out that Mr Ong had not answered his question. /TISG

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