Patients at risk by not taking medicines

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Patients at risk by not taking medicines

Half of people on blood pressure lowering medicines stop taking them within a year and on any given day miss around 10 per cent of scheduled doses, according to new research.

Data from 4,800 patients taking part in 21 clinical studies showed that of those missing doses, around 40 per cent missed a single dose but another 40 per cent missed several days’ doses at once.

The team of European and US researchers found that patients who took ‘drug holidays’ and missed sequential doses were most at risk of giving up treatment early and should be actively encouraged to continue treatment.

“This research gives real cause for concern,” says Graham MacGregor, chairman of the Blood Pressure Association. “Missing doses will cause your blood pressure to swing and even small changes will significantly increase risk. As soon as you stop taking the tablets, your blood pressure will go back up, as will your risk of stroke and heart attack.  “High blood pressure is a long-term condition so it is very important to keep it under control by continuing to take the tablets, or talking to your GP about changing them if you do experience unwanted side effects,” added Professor MacGregor.

Similarly, a separate study by charity Diabetes UK found that more than 650,000 people with type 2 diabetes are risking problems such as stroke and blindness because they don’t take their medicines.

The charity says that two million people suffer from type 2 diabetes, which is rapidly on the rise as the adult population gains weight, and at least 650,000 of them are not taking their medication as they should.

People with type 2 diabetes may need to take several glucose-lowering tablets, blood pressure tablets, and lipid-lowering agents.

"Many people struggle to realise the importance of taking their medicines despite the fact that damage caused is irreparable," said Douglas Smallwood, Diabetes UK's chief executive. "Effectively controlling type 2 diabetes can reduce the risk of heart disease by 56 per cent, and eye disease and kidney disease by 33 per cent."

References: B Vrijens, G Vincze, P Kristanto, J Urquhart, M Burnier. Adherence to prescribed antihypertensive drug treatments: longitudinal study of electronically compiled dosing histories BMJ 2008; 336:1114-1117 (17 May 08).

650,000 with diabetes are not taking their tablets, Diabetes UK website, 23 May 08.

Topics: Research, Medicines

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