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Medication and Supplement Non-Compliance

In the health care profession, improperly taking prescribed medication is called non-compliance. It can result in the medications not getting the desired curative benefits or in the terrible consequences of an overdose.


The Risks of Non-Compliance are Stark


"Therapeutic drug use (not illicit drug use) each year; kills as many as 198,815 people, puts 8.8 million people in hospitals, accounts for 28% of all hospital admissions, and costs as much as $182 billion dollars."   American Medical News. Jan 15, 1996, p. 11


 Incredibly, it’s the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

One of the causes of severe trauma, injury, and even death is the result of the misuse of legal medications by persons at home.


Many prescribed and even over the counter medications, taken improperly, have the potential to kill. Unfortunately it happens all too frequently and many thousands of persons die each year from the accidental overdose of legal drugs.


Drug Holidays

Drug Holidays---periods during which the patient stopped taking the drug regimen completely ---increased from an average duration of 6.2 days for patients on therapy for 2 to 12 months, to an average duration of 14.4 days for those on therapy for more Drug Holidays---periods during which the patient stopped taking the drug regimen completely increased from an average duration of 6.2 days for patients on therapy for 2 to 12 months, to an average duration of 14.4 days for those on therapy for more than 25 months."


For Seniors it can Lead to Full Care Facilities

For many seniors today the fine line between maintaining their independent life at home and moving into a care facility can be the medicines they are taking. It should be the highest priority to establish competent system for medication intake. In many instances a mistakes in does consumption can trigger a severe reaction leading to full care.

Lack of a Convenient System is the Problem

The issue of compliance starts with the prescription bottles. While they are an ideal delivery system of the tablets from the Pharmacy or Drug Store to the consumer, as a method of dispensing and delivering drugs to the user, they lack an effective system which can lead to mistakes in dosages, frequency of intake, missed intakes, and overdosing.


1) Similar Bottles:
Before the first tablet is taken, a dangerous situation may already be in the making for a person on several medications as different medications may arrive in similar bottles.


2) Directions:
On many bottles, the directions are in print too small for persons with impaired vision to read. The vision with many people is bad enough that even glasses don’t resolve the problem. --These people could be at risk if help is not available on a daily basis.--


3) No Regimen Organization:
Relying on memory to take multiple hazardous medications over the long term is an invitation to disaster. To try to remember and assemble the make up of several medications a number of times a day, whether young or old, sooner or later leads to mistakes.

The problem can be compounded if a person is under the stress of an ailment causing pain or discomfort. Pain is extremely distracting and it’s very difficult to try and shut out pain and focus on a task requiring concentration. 

To be safe these individuals should also consider daily assistance.


4) Tedious Dispensing Procedure
One of biggest problems of prescription bottles is that they are tedious to dispense: unscrew the cap, drop out a tablet, and screw the cap back on each bottle.

For an individual taking several medications daily, it’s an effective system becomes essential to maintain organization and consistency of intake. The procedure can otherwise be aggravating, bothersome, time-consuming and monotonous. 

Rebellion to the system can set in, and people may eliminate the intake at 2 or 3 bottles or avoid it altogether.


5) Pill Dispensing Time Factor:
It doesn't seem to matter how serious the illness, or the consequences down the road, many people do not like deal with the time-consuming burden of using their medication bottles as pill dispensers even once a day, let alone several times a day. Regardless of how effective or expensive the medications are, if taking the doses isn't quick and easy,

they are all too frequently bypassed.  


6) Medication Organizing Stress Factor:
The debilitating effects of a chronic illness, and the side effects of medications can lead to depression, discomfort and a sense of anxiety and stress. The patient to may find it stressful to assemble several doses a day, which may be taken in different content, and to be taken at precisely the right time. 

The complexity overcomes the knowledge that the pills must be taken, and even highly organized people find it difficult to take the doses correctly. 


7) Visual Reminder:
An array of bottles are not normally left on a bathroom or kitchen counter. Many times to clean up, they’re typically put in a cupboard or drawer to be out of the way. Unfortunately out of sight is out of mind, and it becomes very easy to forget the bottles, and taking the medication.


8) Vacations:
Weekends and vacations away from home are notorious for missing intakes. Even when the pills are taken along schedules vary and the routine is broken.


9) Selective Dosing:
Because some users know that after 2 or 3 bottles, they may become selective about what they take each day. They’ll take the pills they feel will improve any particular condition they feel that day. 


10) Running Out:
Shaking the bottles and listening for what's remaining often results in running out. When a particular medication runs out, it's not always convenient to immediately head for a pharmacy for renewal. Missing medications for a few days or longer becomes a common occurrence.


11) Overdosing:
Problems often compound each other, one action, omission or mistake leads to another. When a person forgets or avoids prescriptions, it’s seems logical that it can be corrected by catching up with what has been missed, potentially leading up to an overdose.


12) Intake Cessation When the Patient Feels Better:
Prescriptions of medication are meant to be ad directed, which typically means that the entire contents of the bottle should be used. The reason is simple; the proper amount medication is prescribed to eradicate the medical problem.

If the patient stops short, because they feel better after taking the medication for a few days, they could be setting themselves up for a relapse and possibly develop a resistance.


13. Distressing Side Effects
With many of today's designer drugs that are promoted in magazines and television, the side effects can be so serious to the person's health that the beneficial effects of the drugs themselves become questionable. For example; "possible severe liver damage and failure, internal bleeding, constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach, gas, heartburn, stomach pain and cramps, anorexia, loss of appetite, nausea, inflammation of the pancreas, hepatitis, jaundice, cirrhosis, liver cancer, muscle cramps, aches, pain and weakness, joint pain and muscle breakdown".    

All too often, more medications are prescribed to treat side effects which lead to more side effects which lead to more medications. It's not uncommon for elderly persons to be taking several medications simultaneously, with more being added as the drugs themselves and the side effects destroy their bodies and minds. 


These seemingly minor problems are for most persons, insurmountable barriers, and the reason it’s so difficult to be compliant to a prescribed medication regimen.

Compliance becomes haphazard, setting up a situation for disaster.

It is absolute folly to spend hundreds of dollars on medications every month that must be taken as directed, and then trust to our less than reliable memories that it will all work out.


Whether we like to admit it or not, we are our own worst enemies. We make mistakes, we forget, and because a mistake in taking medications can be so unforgiving...everything we can do to promote our own safety should not be overlooked.


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