Patients Fail to Take Their Medicines

SEPTEMBER 01, 2005

A new study shows that, within 6 months of starting medications to lower blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol levels, 1 in 3 patients stopped taking those medications. The study focused on patients with both conditions, who are at a substantially greater risk of heart disease and cardiac events than patients with either condition alone. The researchers analyzed a managed care organization's database and identified more than 8400 patients who were on both BP and cholesterol medication. They then tracked these patients' drug regimens for ~13 months. They found that, after 3 months of receiving the initial prescriptions, only 44.7% of patients were still taking both medications as prescribed. This number dropped to <36% at the 6-month and 12- month marks. The researchers also found that 25.3% to 29.6% of patients were taking one medicine properly, but failing to follow instructions for the second drug. Older patients were more likely not to comply than their younger counterparts, and women were less likely to adhere to their regimens than men, the researchers found.

The strongest predictor of adherence was the number of other medications a patient was already taking in the year prior to starting the new dual regimen. As the overall number of previous prescriptions increased, the likelihood of noncompliance also increased. Also, the time between starting both treatments seemed to factor into adherence. Patients who started taking both drugs on the same day or within a month of each other were 34% more likely to stick to both regimens during the 3-year study, compared with patients who started both drugs up to 3 months apart.