Campaign introduces new “superhero”
to protect health of local citizens

Univera Healthcare has launched a community engagement campaign to promote medication adherence to help protect people against deteriorating health conditions, hospitalizations and even deaths that can result when they don’t take their prescription medications as directed.

Gale Burstein, M.D., Commissioner of Health for Erie County endorses of the campaign.

“Medication adherence is a fancy way of saying ‘take your medicine as directed’,” said Burstein. “Google the words ‘medication adherence’ and you’ll get about 2.7 million hits, which tells you what a hot topic this is in the world of health care.”

The centerpiece of Univera Healthcare’s effort is a stylized prescription bottle called TAD, for “Take As Directed,” adorned with a superhero cape and utility belt. The TAD superhero conveys a simple message: “If you’re not taking your prescriptions as directed, you’re taking a chance.”

According to the American Heart Association, poor medication adherence takes the lives of 125,000 Americans annually and costs the health care system nearly $300 billion a year in additional doctor visits, emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

"Everyone knows that superheroes have superpowers that they use to protect the public,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer. “Prescription drugs also have superpowers that can protect the public, but only if taken as directed.”

Univera Healthcare embraced the superhero theme to capitalize on the current popularity of the genre. This year, ten superhero movies are expected to be released.

“When prescription medications are taken as directed, health outcomes are improved, chronic conditions are managed, health care dollars are used efficiently, and lives are saved,” said Burstein.

“It seems obvious that people should take their medications as directed, particularly those living with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes,” added Vienne. “Unfortunately, 50 percent of people with chronic conditions discontinue their medication within six months.”

There are a variety of reasons why people don’t take their medication as directed. For some, it’s too expensive or inconvenient to have the prescription filled or refilled. Others may worry about side effects or decide that they feel fine without taking it. Still others may simply forget to take the medication when they should, especially if they take multiple medications on varying schedules.

Prescription medications play a vital role in the nation’s health care system. From 2007 to 2010, about half of the total U.S. population and 90 percent of adults age 60 and older used at least one prescription drug during the past month, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Over the past decade, the number of people using five or more prescription drugs increased by 70 percent, according to the CDC. These statistics are cited in a recently published fact sheet from Univera Healthcare, titled “The facts about prescription drug use and medication adherence.”

“Taking medications as directed can make all the difference when it comes to achieving a positive health outcome or maintaining the best possible quality of life,” concluded Burstein.

According to the World Health Organization, getting more patients to take their medications as directed may have a far greater impact on the health of the population than any improvement in specific medical treatments.

In the coming months, Univera Healthcare will have the superhero character TAD carry his message to the public through a series of print ads, outdoor billboards and a radio spot. A television ad also is being planned. A website: has information and suggestions about what people can do to overcome barriers that may prevent them from taking their prescriptions. The website is available to the public.

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Univera Healthcare is a nonprofit health plan that is part of a family of companies financing and delivering health services for more than 1.8 million upstate New Yorkers. Based in Buffalo, the health plan serves more than 135,000 members across the eight counties that comprise Western New York.

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