Study: Patients Less Likely to Refill Drugs When Pills Change Color

Changes in the color of generic antiepileptic drugs increase the likelihood patients will fail to refill a prescription, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, formerly Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers studied the effect of changes in antiepileptic drugs' color and shape on patients' nonpersistence, defined by researchers as "failure to fill a prescription within 5 days of the elapsed days supplied." The researchers compared nonpersistent patients with patients who had no delay in refilling their prescription — the control — and looked at the two refills preceding nonpersistence.


The color of the pills changed before 1.2 percent of nonpersistent cases, but only 0.97 percent of the controls. The shape of the pills changed before 0.16 percent of nonpersistent cases compared with 0.11 percent of the controls.

The authors concluded that changes in pill color significantly increase the likelihood of nonpersistence, and suggested policymakers should reconsider allowing bioequivalent drugs to vary widely in appearance.

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