Compared to the volumes of research lavished on the development of useful medicines, there is not much study devoted to whether people actually take that medicine or not. Obviously, the best medicine in the world doesn’t do any good if it’s not taken. And according to evidence presented at American Heart Association 2006 Scientific Sessions, people just aren’t taking their medicine like they should.
This is especially true of the elderly, who typically have two or more chronic medical conditions and four or more medications that they’re supposed to be taking. But they’re not taking them. For example, only about half of all patients prescribed a lipid-lowering drug are still taking it 6 months later; after 12 months adherence falls to 30% to 40%.
People stop taking their medicine for a number of reasons. If the condition for which they’re taking medication doesn’t make them feel sick (for example high blood pressure), they often stop taking their medicine. They may feel that their drug regime is too complicated or just too inconvenient.
It’s not a good thing, because for patients who stick with their medications, there is a 50% lower risk of hospitalization and up to 50% lower health care costs compared to elderly patients who quit their medicine.
A study called The Federal Study of Adherence to Medications in the Elderly (FAME) tested whether a comprehensive pharmacy care program would increase medication taking. The program consisted of three elements: individualized medication education; follow-up with a clinical pharmacist every two months; and pills dispensed in blister packs sorted by time of day (morning, noon, evening, and bedtime), with up to nine pills per blister.
The test showed that the three elements led to a continued high adherence rate, and that the improved compliance was associated with “clinically significant” improvements in systolic blood pressure and LDLs (bad cholesterol).
Source: American College of Cardiology Foundation