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Over 1 in 3 diabetes patients not taking medicine regularly

Over 2,400 newly diagnosed patients tracked in NHG study; cultural beliefs cited as one reason

Shelina Ajit Assomull on 15 Dec 2017

The Straits Times


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More than one-third of diabetes patients do not take their medication regularly, a study has found.


The National Healthcare Group (NHG) study reports that about 35 per cent of the patients diagnosed with diabetes between 2005 and 2010 were not committed to taking their medication.


"This is a worrying figure that we need to change," said Dr Sun Yan, deputy director of Health Services and Outcomes Research at NHG.


Otherwise, it will increase their risk of being hospitalised and reduce their control of blood sugar levels, doctors said.


Still, the NHG figure is lower than the global average.


According to the United States National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine database, one in two recently diagnosed diabetes patients does not take his medication regularly.


The NHG study was published recently in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care journal.


Researchers monitored each of the 2,463 newly diagnosed patients for five years.


In the first two years, they kept tabs on how faithfully a patient took his medication.


Patients are considered "adherent" if they took 80 per cent of the medicine supplied.


In the following three years, researchers monitored the patients' health conditions.


The study found that patients with poor adherence had a 0.4 increased level of HbA1c - the main indicator used to measure blood sugar levels.


Males, Indians and patients without other long-term medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, were among those who fared the worst when it came to taking their medication regularly.


Dr Gary Ang, associate consultant of Health Services and Outcomes Research, said: "Patients who suffer from these long-term conditions are often more educated on taking medication and perceive their risk as higher."


On why patients do not take their medicine regularly, healthcare professionals cited three key reasons:


Lack of understanding about the medicine

To avoid side effects, and
Cultural beliefs.


On cultural beliefs, for example, some may prefer to take supplements instead of their prescribed medication. Others may have misconceptions on the use of insulin and oral medication.


Ms Sandra Xu, senior pharmacist at NHG Pharmacy, said cultural beliefs were the hardest to tackle. "They are personal and we can explain to patients, but their understanding of Western medicine needs to be explored further."


Dr Ang added that "debunking these misconceptions on medication and educating patients are the next step".


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.