Standardized language on labels could simplify things, researchers say
By Steven Reinberg
MONDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) — Instructions for taking medications are often so vague that older patients, sometimes taking an average of seven pills a day, may take their drugs incorrectly, a new study finds.
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Moreover, many patients don’t realize that they can take several medications at once. Standardized, simple instructions that will make dosing times easy to grasp are sorely needed, the researchers added.
“When given the task of taking multiple medications, people unnecessarily complicated the regimen,” said lead researcher Michael Wolf, an associate professor of medicine and learning sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Wolf noted that many older people are taking as many as seven different drugs a day. “People took medicine more times a day than they needed to,” he said.
The report is published in the Feb. 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
For the study, Wolf’s team talked to 464 patients aged 55 to 74. Although most of the patients were well-educated, roughly half didn’t have strong “health literacy skills,” the researchers noted.
Health literacy is the ability to understand the information that patients are given about their health, the drugs they are supposed to take and their ability to perform skills related to their health, Wolf said.
“There have been studies over the past two decades that linked poor health literacy to poorer outcomes and worse mortality rates,” he said.
After giving patients a seven-drug regimen, they found that people were often taking drugs up to 14 times a day, Wolf said. “We are arguing they shouldn’t have taken them more than four times a day,” he noted.
Patients need to find the most efficient way of taking their drugs by consolidating their regimen, Wolf explained.
“We found that when people were given two medicines with the exact same instructions, a third of patients wouldn’t combine those medicines,” he said. “When one said take with food or water, half the patients wouldn’t combine those medicines.”
Moreover, when two medicines were to be taken every 12 hours, two out of three people wouldn’t combine them, Wolf said. “It may be that a lot of people have concerns that they can’t take these medicines together, that there may be a harmful interaction,” he said.
“We are not talking to patients about this,” Wolf said. “This is the number one cause of non-adherence in the United States, beyond cost.”