NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

PATIENTS STOP TAKING LIFESAVING DRUGS TOO EARLY

September 26, 2006

Many patients stop taking their medicine far sooner than they should, researchers say, and that decision can be deadly when the drugs treat heart disease or diabetes.

According to the authors of a group of studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine:

  • It took only one month after leaving the hospital for one out of eight heart-attack patients to quit taking the lifesaving drugs prescribed to them.
  • The heart patients who stopped taking their drugs were three times more likely to die during the next year than patients who stayed on the drugs.
  • Of diabetes patients, those who didn't take their medications had higher rates of hospitalization and death; the link wasn't as pronounced as in the heart-attack research but still significant.

The study didn't examine why people stopped taking their medicine, but the patients who quit were more likely to be older, single and less educated. Additionally, researchers found that cost prevents many Medicare beneficiaries from taking their pills and that doctors often neglect to explain the basics about new drugs.

Source: Editorial, "Patients Stop Taking Lifesaving Drugs Too Early," Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2006.

 

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