Adherence to a medicine regimen is central to good health outcomes of people of all ages. However, evidence suggests there is an increase in the number of people failing to complete their course of medicines and so putting themselves at risk at worst, or at least possibly reducing the effectiveness of the medicines they are taking.
Statistics show that between 30 and 50 per cent of people do not take their medication doses exactly as prescribed by their healthcare professional, or fail to finish their medicine course. Australian figures are consistent with these findings, estimating that 41.0 per cent of Australians have stopped taking prescribed medicine before they were meant to, on at least one occasion.
Given that community pharmacies dispense some 297 million prescriptions annually this amounts to a major non-adherence of medicine issue.
Medicine adherence for many patients with chronic disease also is extremely poor – at present on average at only about 50 per cent. This results in disease-related complications, higher levels of hospitalisation, and increased morbidity and mortality.
Community pharmacists play a major role in helping patients comply with their medicine regimen to ensure they get the maximum possible benefit from the medicines they are taking.
Community pharmacists and pharmacy staff can contribute to better medicine management by:
- Helping to identify, resolve, prevent and monitor medicine use and safety problems
- Reducing poly-pharmacy and optimising medicine regimens
- Designing adherence and health literacy programs customised to the needs of individual patients
- Developing consumer medicine action plans which have self‑management goals
- Communicating medicine care plans to consumers, carers and other healthcare professionals in the team.
In addition to maximising the positive impacts of taking medicine properly, it is important to maintain medicine adherence as this can also have a major impact on reducing the number of people admitted to hospital.
Research shows some 12 per cent of all medical admissions to hospital and 20 per cent to 30 per cent of all admissions in the population aged 65 years and over are estimated to be medication-related.
Optimising the management of long-term conditions through medicine adherence has been shown to reduce or delay the incidence of hospitalisation in patients with chronic diseases. It also has been shown to reduce the need for, and spending on, expensive hospital admissions and medical services.
Some medicine non-adherence behaviours to be alert for include:
- Failure to fill a prescription in the first place
- Failure to refill a prescription
- Omitting a dose or doses
- Taking an incorrect dosage
- Prematurely discontinuing medication
- Taking a dose at the wrong time or against correct instructions such as “take on full stomach”
- Taking a medication prescribed for someone else
- Improperly using medication administration devices (such as inhalers)
So it is important to talk to your community pharmacist and devise a plan that is suitable for you and which helps you achieve your health goals.
Medicine adherence plans developed by your community pharmacist may also include lifestyle plans such as weight management, smoking cessation and so on to help increase your overall wellbeing.
Your community pharmacist is your medicines expert. Speak to them for a plan that works for you.