MEDICATIONS DON’T WORK IN PATIENTS WHO DON’T TAKE THEM

pill-1884775_960_720

A nurse patiently explains the benefits of prescription medication to a soon to be discharged patient. Only for the same patient to be readmitted a few weeks later not having taken the medication. Or they say they have but you suspect they haven’t.

Nurses are always seeing patients that suffer unexpected relapses or don’t get any better despite being sent home with medication in their luggage. People who take prescription medication take only half the number of prescribed doses. Medication non-adherence is when less than 80% of prescribed doses are taken.

TOO COMPLICATED

The reasons that patients cite for not taking medication is that it is too complicated or there are side effects.  In some countries, they may not be able to pay for the medication. Other reasons for non-adherence is confusion or they don’t have symptoms. Some people even think that taking medication is a sign of weakness.

NEGATIVE EMOTIONAL REACTIONS

Negative emotional reactions to medications are hard to change. The benefits of taking medication clearly outweigh the negatives as the negatives outcomes include death. The positive outcomes of medication adherence include an improvement in well being and living as long as possible.

All patients share the belief that they want to be free of whatever it is that afflicts them. It is that up to half of all patients disagree about how to get to that goal. A Surgeon General in the United States said it directly “Drugs (medication) don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” There are many reasons why patients don’t take medication.

LOW TECH SOLUTION

But the next time you discharge a patient and explain the benefits of the medication, you may want to suggest to put their medication next to their toothbrush. It’s a low tech reminder that everyone can do.

To learn more about medication adherence,

Ryan, Rebecca, et al. “Interventions to improve safe and effective medicines use by consumers: an overview of systematic reviews.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 4 (2014).