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Give it time: Cardiac patients more likely to adhere to drug regime if given longer prescriptions

Never mind the spoonful of sugar, new research shows that cardiac patients will take their medicine - and keep taking it - if they are simply given more time. A study conducted at Women's College Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found that cardiac patients ages 65 and older are more likely to adhere to a regimen of heart medications when the duration of the first prescription lasts for more than 30 days.

In the study, Noah Ivers, MD, of Women's College Hospital, and his team investigated how long cardiac patients took three different kinds of heart medications when the duration of the initial prescription varied. They found that patients given an initial prescription lasting more than 60 days were 2.4 to 4.1 times (depending on the medication) more likely to continue to take the medication than patients given initial prescriptions lasting less than 30 days.

This finding is important because, as Ivers explains, patients are sometimes given small initial prescriptions to encourage them to attend follow-up appointments. Yet, the team's research suggests that short initial prescriptions may be an unnecessary annoyance that has little effect on the likelihood of follow-up care. According to Science Daily:

"The majority of patients in our study left hospital with a prescription for cardiac medications for 30 days or less," said Dr. Ivers, [lead author of the study]. "This may be a result of the common clinical perception that short prescriptions encourage patients to go to their followup appointments, yet our study found regardless of the duration of the prescription, nearly all patients did, in fact, attend their followup appointment."

Short prescriptions may inadvertently suggest to patients and family physicians alike that long-term adherence isn't necessary, the authors suggest.

"When we reduce the requirement for early refills, patients still follow up with their family physician or cardiologist and they are more likely to remain on the medications as well, Dr. Ivers said. "We certainly want to encourage early outpatient follow up after hospitalization, but holding medications ransom may not be the best way to do it."

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: A moose no longer: How I faced down my fears of heart diseaseNIDA accepting proposals of mobile apps designed to help patients take their medsRaising awareness about the importance of taking medications properly and No co-pays mean more people take their medicine

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