Half don’t take meds as directed

woman taking pills

Even patients who consider themselves proficient at managing their medicines engage in unsafe practices, new findings reveal

A consumer perception survey of Australian Patients Association members found that half admitted to not completing their prescription as directed by their health professional – and 38% said they do not check if their medicines have expired before taking them.

Despite these findings, 93% of respondents agreed that not taking medicines as directed could cause harm, while 90% said they were confident that they took medication correctly as prescribed at all times.

The Australian Patients Association says these findings reveal a “perception gap,” where people who believe they are complying correctly with their medicines are still engaging in risky practices around them.

The survey of 155 Australian Patients Association members found 78% of respondents were taking two or more medications with the most common reasons being to manage chronic disease (42%) or to control pain (18%).

The respondents indicated a high level of interest in their healthcare: 85% said they were easily able to source reliable information on taking their medication, and 81% had recently completed a review of their medicines with a GP or pharmacist in the last six months.

National Strategy Director of the Australian Patients Association, Michael Riley, says the findings emphasise the needs for greater education to prescription medication consumers.

“The survey data shows that mistakes and misuse occur even among people who are highly invested in their healthcare and go to great efforts to follow their prescription medication advice by the letter,” he says.

“Seemingly harmless behaviours can have very serious consequences. It underlines the complexity of medication compliance and the need for continued consumer education on medication use and risks of misuse.”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Drug Strategy Household survey of 2016 found that 2.5 million (or 12.8%) people in Australia misused a pharmaceutical drug at some point in their lifetime, with just under one in 20 (4.8%) Australians having misused a pharmaceutical drug in the last 12 months.

The Association held a forum over the weekend to explore appropriate use of prescription medications, discuss pain management and how patients, the pharmaceutical industry, doctors and pharmacists can work together to educate the public on the appropriate use of medications and harm prevention strategies

One of the speakers at the forum, Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone, advised consumers to check the expiry dates on medicines.

He pointed out that it is common for patients to keep medicines after an original course of treatment has ended.

“An expired medicine may not work as well and can cause adverse effects,” Mr Tassone says.

“Pharmacies offer safe disposal of unwanted medicines which can reduce risks around this area of medicine misuse”.

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