via Improperly taking prescription meds can be fatal, clarionledger.com
Every year, thousands of people die or suffer complications because they misuse their prescription medications, or simply fail to follow their medical provider’s recommendations for taking them. A new study announced recently in a British medical journal suggests elderly people may be at particular risk of what physicians call “prescription noncompliance.”
Prescription noncompliance is a big problem and can result in a variety of issues. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than one in five prescriptions are never filled at the pharmacy, and medications are not taken as prescribed half the time. For many patients with chronic diseases (such as high blood pressure), the majority of people take less medication than prescribed or stop taking it altogether. Seniors are more likely to be affected by noncompliance for several reasons, including increased sensitivity to the effects of drugs, but also because they often have multiple prescriptions that could interact with each other, and may experience problems with concentration or memory.
Failing to adhere to your prescription schedule can lead to frightening statistics: The CDC estimates 125,000 people die in the U.S. each year because of prescription noncompliance, and up to half of people being treated with statins (medicines that control cholesterol) are up to a quarter more likely to die if the patients stop taking them.
“It is very important for people to take their medication as prescribed,” noted pharmacist Tommy Shields, owner of Service Drugs in Ridgeland. “Failure to take their medication properly will lead to unfavorable outcomes in their treatment plan. Physicians may then prescribe additional medications to help manage their health, further complicating the patient’s treatment.”
Recently, the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacologypublished a study based on 503 Belgian seniors age 80 and over, which found nearly seven in 10 of them weren’t taking the proper prescriptions for their conditions. Nearly six in 10 of them were taking five or more medications, and only 17 percent were considered free from prescription-related issues. Stunningly, the study found patients were 39 percent more likely to die if they underused their medications, and 26 times more likely to need hospitalization.
“Taking too many medications or unsafe medications are known to cause adverse health outcomes; however, we have shown that not taking essential, beneficial medications is more frequent and can be more strongly associated with negative outcomes,” said lead author Maarten Wauters of Belgium’s Ghent University. “Prescribing medications to older persons should be done after careful thought, balancing the benefits and risk of every medication at regular intervals.”
The results of the study appear to be consistent with others, including some in the U.S. which indicate that failure to follow prescription instructions is a major problem. “Clinical pharmacologists can help prescribers to clearly assess misuse and underuse of medications in full knowledge of the patient, their comorbidities, and their medications,” Wauters said. “They can help to build electronic systems for constant monitoring of the quality of prescribing, using evidence-based criteria of potentially inappropriate prescribing.”
To help avoid the risks of not taking medications properly, it’s important to follow your health care professional’s instructions exactly. When you get a new prescription, be sure you understand all the instructions, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you if anything is unclear.
To help you stick to your medication plan, the FDA has some additional recommendations:
- Take your medication at the same time every day. It may help to tie the habit to routines like brushing your teeth or getting ready for bed. Before choosing mealtime for your routine, check if your medication should be taken on a full or empty stomach.
- Keep a “medicine calendar” with your pill bottles and note each time you take a dose.
- Use a pill container. Some types have sections for multiple doses at different times, such as morning, lunch, evening and night. Be sure to refill it at the same time each week.
- Use technology. Time caps are available, and there also several mobile apps, for example Medisafe, MedCoach and Pill Reminder, which can help you manage your medication schedule.