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Why medicine adherence is key to keeping you healthy

February 3rd, 2017 by Stephanie Hall

Have you ever wondered why you get prescribed a month-long course of antibiotics just to treat one little infection? Or have you ever been curious about why your heart medication, or your asthma and anxiety medication, aren’t as effective if you skip just one dose?

Maybe you’ve thought to yourself, ‘I’ve had enough! I’m sure I’ve taken more than enough medicine to keep me going for the next year, let alone the next two weeks, so I’m going to treat myself to a day off.’

BIG mistake, my friend. I know how annoying it can be having to take medicine on a daily basis (I had acute asthma as a child and I get severe hay fever in the summer), but giving up on your medicine is essentially giving up on your health.

Whether you take medication on a regular basis or you’re completing a one-off course of antibiotics, medicine adherence is going to play a major role in getting you better.

So let’s delve into the depths of what medicine adherence actually is.

What does medicine adherence mean?

Medicine adherence means fully complying and co-operating with the terms of your medicine.

In other words, it means sticking with your medication without missing any doses, without altering how regularly you take your medicine and without forgetting to pick up your new batch of medicine from the pharmacy and having it in your hands before you run out.

The way I like to think of it is that it’s a bit like wearing glasses. The two are similar in as much as you can’t expect to see a restaurant menu up close if you don’t wear your spectacles, and you can’t expect to manage your condition without taking your medicine as prescribed.

Both situations require you to commit for the long-haul, as neither your eyesight nor your chronic illness will be cured by abandoning the course of treatment that keeps them under control.

Echo-NHS-Healthcare-Black-Rimmed-Glasses

Medicine adherence can further be understood through two simple terms:

  1. Compliance – taking the medicine prescribed to you as and when you should in line with your doctor’s recommendations.
  2. Possession – making sure you have the medication you need at your disposal without running low on supplies and having to skip doses.

It’s quite simple really, yet so many of us fall down at the last hurdle and neglect to take our medication as we should.

Why is that?

28% of busy workers forget to request a repeat prescription from their GP before running out of medication.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the UK’s under 35s are the worst at remembering to refill their medication before they run out of it, according to Aurora Market Research conducted in 2016.

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Busy lifestyles and high-pressure careers often mean that young professionals and busy mothers simply don’t have the time or the energy to re-order the medicine they need, which leaves them more vulnerable to developing complications relating to their condition and more open to experiencing recurring symptoms.

So time constraints and forgetfulness provide two logical explanations for low medicine possession rates in the UK, but what about issues with medicine compliance?

People aged 25-34 years old are the worst at complying with the terms of their medicine.

Echo-NHS-Healthcare-Young-Woman-Happy

Forgetfulness is once again one of the most significant factors here, with a faltering memory responsible for many people interrupting their medication cycle by missing doses.

But poor health isn’t the only negative consequence that comes from forgetting to take your medicine as directed; there’s also a financial concern.

£300 million worth of medicine is wasted in the UK every year, according to Aurora Market Research. This sum of medicine is so often wasted because people tend to accumulate stockpiles of all their medicines at home, rather than staggering the times at which they pick up their medications from their pharmacy, in accordance with whichever ones they actually need to refill at that time.

Stockpiled medicine that is ordered too early is far more likely to be left to waste away instead of actually being used to treat a person’s condition. So this stockpiling phenomenon highlights that possession and compliance really do go hand in hand, as expired medication leads to skipped doses.

While we’re all susceptible to memory glitches and we all need to think about ordering our medicines in a more responsible manner, there are so many options available to help us remember when to take and when to order our medicine nowadays, that our list of excuses for bad medicine adherence is growing shorter and shorter.

Which conditions stand to benefit from medicine adherence?

All kinds of long-term conditions require committed medicine adherence if they are to be treated effectively.

But conditions that stand to benefit most from improved medicine adherence include hypertension, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). This is because people with these conditions tend to have lower adherence rates.

Echo-NHS-Healthcare-Plastic-Model-of-Lungs

A study published by the World Health Organisation has found that adherence among patients living with chronic diseases in developed countries averages only 50%, and medication adherence among patients with COPD is particularly low, with a Respiratory Research study finding that as many as 49.4% of people are not taking nebulised treatments as prescribed.

In recent years, adherence to HIV medicines has risen dramatically and this is particularly positive as the relationship between adherence and successful treatment with HIV medicines is not directly proportional. This means that that you will either take all your medicine and see your health improve, or you will dip in and out of taking your medicine and see few to no health benefits (even if you take your medicine 60% of the time). It’s all or nothing when it comes to HIV medicine.

How do we tackle the problem of medicine adherence?

One of the most effective ways, in my opinion, is the use of medication apps.

Echo-NHS-Healthcare-Echo-App-on-Mobile-Screen

That’s right, I’m about to plug Echo to you, but only because Echo is genuinely doing a great job at solving this problem.

  1. Compliance - Echo allows you to set up daily reminders to take your medication and we send you notifications each time your next prescription is due to be ordered from your pharmacy. So you can absolve yourself of any guilt you feel for forgetting to take your medicine, because you’ll never forget again with our reminders.
  2. Possession - Echo saves you from having to make a trip to your local pharmacy as we offer free medication delivery. Our packaging is uniquely designed to fit through your letterbox so that you’ll never be left stranded if you’re not home to take the parcel from your postman.

Lesson to take away about medicine adherence

The most important thing to remember about medicine adherence is that sticking to it means you’ll have the best chance of keeping your condition under control, and that means you’ll increase your chances of living a healthier, happier and longer life.

Adhering to your medicine also means you’ll feel no more guilt, you’ll create no more waste and you’ll experience no more hassle. The effort you put in will be more than worth the results you get back.

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