Why don’t people take their prescriptions?

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Approximately 1.5 million patients have a heart attack each year and there are several medications that patients can be given to reduce their risk of death or having another heart attack. In a new study reported in the American Heart Association’s journal called Circulation Cardiovascular Quality Outcomes, they looked at how many patients report taking these medications regularly.

Previous mega-trials with thousands of patients found that beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, antiplatelet drugs, and statins prevent death and reduce the risk of having another heart attack. In this new study they evaluated 7,425 people from 216 hospitals who had a heart attack and were given medications to see how often they took it. While 71% of people took it most of the time, 25% only took the drugs occasionally and 4% did not take any therapy at all.

There are a variety of reasons that people don’t take their medication including: (1) not wanting a reminder of the horrible event that happened to them, (2) not wanting to have people see them take medication or look vulnerable, (3) experiencing side effects and not finding out if there are alternatives, (4) not wanting to afford or the inability to afford the medications, and (5) a lack of understanding about what the drugs are being used for.

If you have had a heart attack or know someone who has, find out about what the medications do and how they work together to keep patients healthy. If there are side effects or you are having trouble affording your medications, remember there are lots of alternatives in each of those drug classes so let you doctor or pharmacist know what you issues are. Avoiding the issue does not make it go away and doing something proactive can help you feel empowered. Remember, having to take medication does not make you look weak and can prevent you from developing more serious heart trouble that can prevent you from doing the things you want to do. You only have one heart and it is critical that you care for it.

Michael White; Dept. Of Pharmacy Practice, UConn School Of Pharmacy