Monday, 14 July 2014

Taking risks with medicines

Following on from my post on 25th June 2014 about the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's report into medicines compliance, survey results have now been released revealing that many people aren't taking their medicines as directed.

New research, commissioned by Pharmacy Voice, shows that a quarter of people surveyed had deliberately not followed instructions about a course of treatment prescribed by their doctor, while only a fifth always completed a course of medicine. In the survey, a quarter of people believed that a course of treatment doesn't need to be followed rigidly to get better, and 45 percent said they trust their body telling them they feel better more than they trust prescription medicines. One in seven people also said they have used out-of-date medicines and one in 20 have even used medicines that have been prescribed to family or friends.

Obviously not taking a full course of any medicine can lead to health problems, such as delayed recovery. But stopping certain medicines without medical advice can also cause serious side effects. Corticosteroid tablets, for example, should be stopped only by gradually reducing the dose under the guidance of a doctor or nurse. If you stop them suddenly, this can leave you more prone to infections. Some anti-depressants can cause severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop them abruptly, rather than reducing them slowly over a four-week period.

There is also particular concern over people not finishing courses of antibiotics (see my last blog post). The danger is that the infection will recur and will be much harder to treat when it does. In addition, the surviving bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotics and spread to other people.

The Pharmacy Voice research also highlighted that one in 10 people take more than the recommended dose and a quarter don't always measure out liquid medicines. This reminds me of several friends who were swigging Gaviscon straight from the bottle to ease their heartburn during their pregnancies!

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