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One in four older patients missing out on medicines

Published on 04/09/06 at 11:18am

More than a quarter of older patients in the UK are missing out on medicines, either because they simply fail to take their medication or do not take it effectively.

Previous research has already established that older people are most likely to experience these problems, especially those living alone, but a new study has now aimed to find out why.

The study was carried out by pharmacists at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen using a questionnaire posted to residents living in 24 sheltered housing complexes in Aberdeen. Respondents were aged between 78 and 86 years old.

The research found that 28% of people said they did not always take their medicines, with a similar amount using aids such as an alarm beeper, calendar or medicines box to help them take their medicines effectively.

Only 17% were being helped by someone to take their medicines correctly.

The researchers found six main reasons why elderly people did not take their medicines appropriately. The independent factors were, in order of significance:

- Older age: the older the person, the less likely they were to take their medicines as recommended.

- Deviating from the recommended management of their medicines to suit their lifestyle.

- Not getting help from someone to use the medicines correctly.

- Being confused about their medicines.

- Failing to take steps to ensure they didn't run out of their medicines.

- Being concerned about the side effects of their medicines.

Pharmacist Dr Johnson George, who led the research, says the study raises some cause for concern. "The results show a level of failure to take medicines in the elderly population that is much higher than that reported in medical literature."

Dr George believes that pharmacists could help improve the situation.

"Pharmacists are in an ideal position to help elderly people to take their medicines effectively by ensuring they have an adequate supply of medicines; offering them information and advice about their medicines and being involved in the administration of the medicines. All of these factors can help improve the level of medicine-taking in the elderly."

Summary of research results

- 15% of respondents said they forget to take their medicines.

- 93% claimed they were always careful about taking their medicines but,

- 13% said that they sometimes stopped taking their medicines if they felt worse when they took them, and

- 7% said they sometimes stopped taking their medicines when they felt better.

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