Let’s face it. The general public sucks at taking their meds the way they are supposed to. But it’s still going to help, right?
Studies have shown that upwards of 75% of patients taking medications are not fully compliant. In other words, the vast majority of medicated patients do not take drugs as prescribed.
With this in mind, understand that trials on medications are done under Ivory Tower-like conditions. And the results on trials for a large chunk of available medications show a paltry benefit at best (anti-depressants, high blood medications and cholesterol medications are just a few examples). We can extrapolate that, if the benefits of drugs like those mentioned above are a hair above non-existent with high compliance, that with low compliance the chance that benefits of the drug will outshine side effects becomes akin to finding the winning Powerball ticket walking through a parking lot.
Just in case you think I’m being dramatic (ok…so maybe the Powerball comment was a wee bit dramatic–but not by much), I present this particular study. In it, researchers looked at several different drugs, the statins or blood pressure medications (beta-blocker, ACE inhibitor or ARB), to see what the benefits of the drugs looked like if someone was compliant versus non-complaint. High compliance was considered to be someone taking his or her drug at least 80% of the time they were supposed to be. Here’s what they found:
- Highly compliant patients were 19-36% less likely to have a heart attack or need a heart stent procedure.
- Everyone else who did not take the meds as prescribed basically had no benefit.
- Even those who were partially adherent had no reduction in heart attacks or cardiac procedures.
This means that, with statins (my favorite class of drugs) or the most commonly used blood pressure medications, only a small percentage of those patients taking them will ever see a benefit. Even if they do see a benefit, many times that benefit is small. None of this takes into account the long list of side effects from these classes of drugs.
THIS is what we call “medicine” today.