Heart Patients Often Forget Medication
March 10, 2004 -- Suffering from a life-threatening event such
as a heart attack might serve as a wake-up call to many, but a new study shows
many heart patients simply forget to take potentially life-saving medications
as prescribed by their doctor.
Researchers found more than 50% of people who were hospitalized
for heart attack or severe chest pain didn't take heart medications that are
proven to reduce their risk of death as directed, and forgetfulness was the
"It appears that we need to find better ways of helping
patients remember to take their pills, so they and our health-care system can
get the best result," says researcher Kim A. Eagle, MD, clinical director
of the University of Michigan's cardiovascular center, in a news release.
The results of the study were presented this week at the Annual
Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans.
Why Heart Patients Don't Take Their Medicine
In the study, researchers followed 154 patients who had been
hospitalized for either a heart attack or severe chest pain. Most were
prescribed some or all of the four major classes of drugs used to treat
patients with cardiovascular disease, including:
- Anticlotting drugs, such as aspirin
- ACE inhibitors
- Cholesterol-lowering statins
Researchers contacted the patients six months after they left
the hospital and asked them about how often they took their prescribed
medications based on a standard questionnaire.
The study showed that more than 50% of the patients said they
didn't always take their medications as directed. The main reasons they gave
for not keeping up with their medication schedule was forgetfulness followed by
A small number of patients said they didn't take their drugs
when they felt better or when they felt worse.
The study also showed that about 10% of the patients said they
had stopped taking one of their heart medications altogether. Of those, more
than half said their doctors had told them that one or more of the four drugs
was "not necessary."
Another 9% of those who stopped taking a heart medication said
they had done so because they didn't like the side effects, and 5% said they
couldn't afford to buy the drug.
Researchers say all four of the heart medications studied are
available in inexpensive generic forms, and the cost per month could be as low
as $50, depending on which drugs are prescribed.
"Further studies in broader populations are desperately
needed, so we can understand the reasons behind nonadherence in order to
improve compliance with medication schedules, and as a result improve patients'
health status," says Eagle. "All the studies in the world showing how
well these drugs work as preventive agents don't mean anything if patients
aren't taking them."