The Arthritis Newsletter

Summer 2014

Take Your Meds. No, Really. Take Them.

By Gerry Sheanh


When inflammatory arthritis takes hold and sends a patient through a journey of tests, consultations and evaluations, it almost always results in the prescribing of one or more medications. It then becomes the patient’s responsibility to stick to, or adhere, to the dosing regime until told otherwise, but research is showing that non-adherence is a serious issue. Taking gout as an example, Arthritis Research Centre researcher Dr. Mary De Vera has found that greater than 50% of those with the disease did not adhere to their prescribed medications. Clearly, there is some sort of disconnect going on between medical professionals and patients when it comes to adherence.


It is important for patients to take their medications as prescribed for several reasons. According to Dr. De Vera, patients need to “to get the full benefit of the medication at the right time in an appropriate dosage, and to ensure they are taking the dosage safely.” Still, many patients are not following their prescriptions, for a variety of reasons.


Dr. Mary De Vera

“About one in ten people can’t afford their medications”, says Dr. De Vera, “and some are uncertain about interaction with other drugs.” In patients with chronic conditions and perhaps another concurrent disease, the more prescriptions they have to manage, the greater the potential for confusion and the greater the possibility for stopping a medication that doesn’t feel or appear to be having any demonstrated effect. Other reasons for not taking prescribed drugs include uncertainty about potential reactions with other drugs and reluctance to take a medication for an indefinite period.


Dr. De Vera has also studied statin (drugs used to lower cholesterol) usage among patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  She found that many patients discontinue or stop taking their statin medications. This is problematic as she also found that those who stopped taking statins had an 80% higher chance of death compared to those who continued taking their statins as prescribed. So, how can this number be reduced, and how can patients be made more aware of the importance of adhering to their prescribed treatments?


“Education is important’, Dr. De Vera states. “Patients need to know what they are taking, how to take it, why they are taking it, what the benefits are and what are the consequences of not taking it. We can involve nurse-practitioners, pharmacists and physicians in educating the patient.” And what if the patient is experiencing unpleasant side effects or is not feeling any benefit from the medications? “Talk to your doctor or your pharmacist”, says Dr. De Vera, “and become a proactive patient.” The best way to become a proactive patient is to learn everything you can about your own arthritis and the medications that will help manage the disease. This will help in understanding how to take it, what it does and why it is important to find ways to stay with it.

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