Confusing ‘Patient Information Leaflets’, poor GP-Patient relationships and a lack of understanding into how medicines work leads to many stopping their treatment.
• 73% of British adults have been prescribed medication in the last year, and almost half in the last month alone.
• This week is National Medication Adherence Week (16th- 23rd October) which aims to highlight the serious national impact that failing to properly take medication has.
• The full scale of the issue was revealed in 2013 by a landmark investigation – the first large-scale study into the issue in the UK – called the Aston Medication Adherence Study. The results showed that around a quarter to a third of the patients were non-adherent to their medication.
• Reasons for failing to take medication range from a fear of side-effects to the nearly two thirds who simply forget their prescription programme. 1 in 5 stopped taking their medication as they did not feel ill and thought they did not need it – failing to understand how and why medicine works.
PatientTalk.Org interviewed Paul O’Hanlon,a Medical Adherence Expert, to find out more.
PatientTalk.Org – So Paul first question, what is compliance and what is the issue?
O’Hanlon – Compliance is about a patient who has been prescribed a course of medicine over a few days, over a many months or maybe for the rest of their lives, it’s about them taking that medicine at the right time of day every day of the week they are meant to take.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok and what are the costs to the NHS and to the health of the nation?
O’Hanlon – Well what we have found when we started to look at compliance or we use the term medicine adherence we find that a significant proportion so up to 50% of patients are actually not taking their medicines correctly and this has two big consequences. First is that the actual consequence of the waste of those medicines which we estimate at about 300 million pounds a year just in wasted medicine but there is an even bigger issue and this is the human impact, the fact that by these patients not taking their medicines correctly it impacts their health, impacts on their long term conditions and that has a further cost to the NHS to additional G.P visits, additional hospital visits, hospital interventions , off almost 500 million a year in people’s health.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok and which conditions are most impacted?
O’Hanlon – The most important ones that we are focusing on are the long term conditions such as blood pressure, high cholesterol , diabetes of which as the population is ageing we are living with more and more of these conditions so it’s a growing problem.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok and has it any effect on the anti-biotic resistance?
O’Hanlon – Well not taking a full course of anti-biotics as prescribed has a part to play in the increase of anti-biotic resistance, that’s not really key to the area that we are focusing on, were focusing more on patients with long term conditions who are on medicines for many many months if not years or till the end of their life’s, that’s the adherence we are really focusing on.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok and what are the chances of adverse events in reality for the average patient?
O’Hanlon – Oh quite significant, I mean the occasional missed dose is not going to do much harm but when a person does have a chronic illness, let’s say diabetes where the control of the sugar and blood is very important, if they are not controlling that blood sugar there can be many long term complications one of which can be a significant reduction in blood circulation in the limbs and at the moment we are seeing up a hundred amputations a week in the NHS as a result of poor medication adherence in diabetes so the consequences can be huge.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok and how better compliance be achieved?
O’Hanlon – Well the starting point is if a patient has any doubts about what they are doing with their medicines and feels they are not managing them as well as they could then go talk to the pharmacist , the pharmacist has a number of solutions it could be something as simple as providing a medication adherence pack this could , this is pack that sorts the patients medication out for them for the week and just makes sure that its simpler, there are many new technologies emerging or it just be the fact that the patients’ needs to understand what their medicines are for so its starting point to say go and talk to your pharmacist they are experts on medicines and they can really help.
PatientTalk.Org – Ok and can G.P’s do anything to help?
O’Hanlon – Certainly, G.P’s, nurses, pharmacists we all have a part to play and I suppose this is one of the big parts of this campaign, not only are we wanting to raise awareness of medication nonadherence in patients, this is also a shout out to the health professionals, to government, to the NHS, we really need to start putting our heads together and finding some real fixes to this problems so it’s not just G.P’s it’s the whole healthcare community.