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The importance of taking your medicine!

In the first of a series of blogs, we look at why it’s important for patients to take their medicine in the right way.

‘Non-adherence’ is one of the biggest challenges to effective treatment. It’s a huge issue which affects the whole healthcare ecosystem, impacting everyone from patients to healthcare professionals and pharmacists.

However, the chances are you’ve not heard of it before, let alone considered how important it is to your health. So, here we’ll be examining exactly what adherence is, and the steps you can take to help improve the chances of successfully managing your condition.

What is ‘adherence’?

Adherence is defined by the World Health Organisation as “’the extent to which a person’s behaviour – taking medication, following a diet and/or executing lifestyle changes – corresponds with agreed recommendations from a healthcare provider”. This could be following instructions about how to look after yourself better, but it’s most commonly used in reference to medication.

Simply put, it’s all about taking the medication you’ve been prescribed, exactly as instructed, after prior agreement with the prescriber. This includes taking all the medication, at the right times, for as long as has been prescribed.

This may sound like a straightforward proposition, but it’s thought that only around half of medicines for long term conditions are taken as prescribed. Plus, there’s little evidence to suggest that adherence rates have improved at all over the past 50 years. As U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said when speaking to prescribers, patients and pharmacists, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.”

The dangers of not taking medicines as prescribed

Non-adherence is widely recognised as the top reason for the failure of a treatment. It’s estimated that wasted medicines alone cost the NHS in England around £300 million each year! That’s a huge amount of money which could be better used for essential frontline services.

Why does non-adherence happen?

There are different reasons why people may not follow the advice they’ve agreed to.

A survey by pharmacy automation company Omnicell found that two thirds of people simply forget to take their medicines. And it’s this forgetfulness which is cited as the most common reason why patients fail to stick to the prescribed regime. Patients could also experience unpleasant side effects when taking medication which may lead them to stop. They may also stop taking their medicine if they begin to feel better. This is often the case when people are taking antibiotics. The risk here is that even if a patient feels better, an infection could return if the course of antibiotics is not completed.

Pharmacy2U, helping patient health

At Pharmacy2U, we’re dedicated to helping patients manage their health. We already offer a reminder service which prompts patients when it’s time to order a top up of their medication, and we’re available to help you understand how your medicines work and the best ways to take them.

If any of the above sounds familiar then we’re here to help increase your understanding with some handy tools and useful tips to increase your chances of success. Keep your eyes peeled for the next blog in the series which is all about… Erm. Ooh! That’s right – forgetfulness!