Heart disease patients don’t take their medicines

At least a quarter of people with heart disease don’t take vital medicines that have been prescribed to them to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Results of a study reported at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester have confirmed that doctors need to pay more attention to the way patients take their medicines, in line with recommendations in recent NICE guidance.

In a study of 472 patients on the heart disease register of a large GP practice in North East England, 29% of patients failed to take medicines to prevent strokes and heart attacks regularly enough, and 23% missed doses of statins to reduce their cholesterol. Women were slightly more likely to take their medicines on schedule than men, as were older patients and those taking larger numbers of medicines.

’Simply prescribing a drug is not enough. Doctors and other members of the primary care team, such as pharmacists, need to work with patients so they understand the importance of taking their medicines in the right dose, at the right time,’ concluded pharmacist Dr Wasim Baqir, from The Village Green Surgery, Sunderland.

In its guidelines on Medicines Adherence published earlier this year, NICE recommended a patient-centred approach to address the widespread problem of poor medicine taking [1]. It stressed that healthcare professionals should adapt their consulting style to individual patients, involve them in making decisions about medication and address practical issues, such as forgetting to take medicines or concerns about side-effects.

Patient adherence to prescribed medication was calculated by comparing the number of repeat prescriptions requested by the patient in a 12-month period with that required for medication to be taken correctly. Good adherence to medication was defined as requests for 85%–115% of necessary repeat prescriptions.


1 National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2009) Medicines Adherence. London

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