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Occasional medicine users less likely to follow instructions: study

Occasional users of medicines are more likely than frequent users to forget to take their medications or stop taking them early without speaking to a health professional, new research has revealed.

The Be Medicinewise Week survey, conducted for NPS MedicineWise by Galaxy Research, also found people who take medicines less often or who take fewer medicines are less likely to follow instructions relating to their drugs.

NPS MedicineWise chief executive Dr Lynn Weekes said the body is reminding health professionals to be especially vigilant with patients who aren't used to taking medicines.

The research indicated that nearly 1 in 6 people (15 per cent) don’t take their medicine as instructed. In those who take medicines less often than daily, this figure rises to 28 per cent.

Age was also found to be a factor. Just under a quarter of people aged 18–34 don’t always take their medicines as instructed. Older Australians fared better. Only 3 per cent of those aged 65 and over don’t always take their medicines as instructed.

People who are younger, those who take medicines less than daily and those who take fewer medicines were also more likely to have stopped their course of medicine early.

NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Jeannie Yoo said there are sometimes good reasons to stop taking a medicine, but urged consumers to first speak with a health professional, such as a doctor, pharmacist or nurse.

“Even though you might be feeling better, if you don’t feel a medicine is helping you, it’s always a good idea to speak to health professionals first to check that it is safe to stop [taking it],” Yoo said. “For example, some regular medicines need to be stopped slowly or to be replaced by another medicine to prevent serious effects to your health.”

The research was released during Be Medicinewise Week, which was August 22–28. This year’s theme was “Take Charge!” NPS MedicineWise encouraged Australians to have conversations with  professionals about their health to get the most out of their prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines.

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