NOVEMBER 01, 2006

New research into patient noncompliance with lifesaving drugs may pave the way for pharmacists to take broader counseling responsibilities.

One study, conducted by researchers at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, found that 1 in 8 heart attack patients stop taking lifesaving cardiac drugs within 30 days of being discharged from the hospital. The researchers, who tracked prescription drug compliance among 1521 heart patients, found that those who stopped taking their medications were 3 times more likely to die within a year.

Several other noncompliance studies reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine (September 25, 2006) reached equally disturbing conclusions. Researchers who tracked the records of >11,000 patients with diabetes found that those who failed to take their prescribed drugs were at a significantly higher risk of hospitalization and death.

The researchers acknowledge that the cost of medication played a role in patients' deciding to stop taking drugs, but they stress that a major factor responsible for noncompliance is the failure of physicians to inform patients of side effects or the importance of maintaining a consistent regimen.

In one study, the researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles found that 2 of every 3 physicians fail to discuss side effects when prescribing medicines, >40% neglect to provide information on dosage or timing, and 13% do not explain the purpose of the medication.