Nearly half of those with long term illnesses have struggled to cope with their medications

Nearly half (46%) of people don’t always take their medication as instructed, according to new research released today.

Less than a third (30%) of people with long term conditions said they felt ‘confident’ about the way they manage their medicine and with over 15 million people in England suffering from a long term condition such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, this means that millions of people could be putting their health at risk by not taking their medicine properly.

The research, carried out by the community pharmacy chain LloydsPharmacy looked into  why people don’t take their medication properly and the difficulties they face. It found that almost 8 in 10 of participants didn’t take their medicine as prescribed due to forgetfulness. Nearly two thirds (61%) admitted to not taking their medications at the right time of day and nearly a third (30%) admitted to either taking more or less of their medication than instructed.

Not taking medication as prescribed can not only make it less effective and interfere with its ability to treat the condition but it can also lead to greater complications from the illness, increase the risk of side effects from the medication itself and can lower the quality of life for patients.

The findings are supported by observations from LloydsPharmacy pharmacists, 24% of whom reported seeing patients at least once a week who aren’t taking their medication properly.

Nitin Makadia, pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy, explains the help that is available for patients: “We’re urging anyone concerned or confused about their medicine to talk to their pharmacist as it’s vital that people with long-term conditions take all their medications as prescribed for the sake of their long term health. As a pharmacist it’s extremely worrying to find that so many people are struggling to stick to their medication plan. Juggling multiple medications can be a real challenge but using repeat prescription services and taking part in medicine check-ups* at a pharmacy can help people take control.”

With the onset of an ageing population, increasing numbers of people are being diagnosed with long term conditions and many of these individuals are on multiple medications. Currently there are at least 15.4 million people in England with a long term condition and the numbers of people with three or more long term conditions is expected to rise from 1.9m to 2.9m by 2018. This means that medicine non-adherence and the pressure it places on the NHS is likely to grow considerably in the coming years – last year the Aston Medication Adherence Study (AMAS) found that people not taking their medication as instructed could cost the NHS more than £500 million every year.

LloydsPharmacy also carried out research among its own pharmacists into medicine mis-management among patients. When asked what the most common reasons patients gave for not taking their medicines correctly, the top three answers were because of a lack of understanding about the need to take it, simply forgetting and worries about the side effects – which could be addressed during a medicine check- up with a pharmacist. Other reasons patients gave included not liking the colour or size of the pill and being too busy and simply deciding themselves not to take it anymore