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Side effects like dry mouth can harm medication adherence, study finds

Many patients don't know dry mouth treatment, wish pharmacists would talk to them more about side effects

PITTSBURGH — Many patients are not complying with their prescription drug therapies due to adverse side effects, even though some OTC drugs can treat them, according to a new study commissioned by a maker of products for dry mouth, one of the most common medication side effects.

The study, conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Biotene, included 1,040 Americans, finding that 52% of those currently taking a prescribed drug have either stopped or wanted to stop taking it due to such side effects as dry mouth. Meanwhile, 31% have completely stopped taking drugs due to side effects, and 21% of those who wanted to stop taking them said they had experienced dry mouth, which is one of the most common side effects of many medications used to treat such conditions as depression, anxiety, allergies, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, among others. But the study found that more than three-quarters of those surveyed did not know dry mouth was a medical condition that requires treatment because it can cause oral health problems, such as tripling the risk of tooth decay, as well as such problems as bad breath.

"Patients head to the pharmacy to get their prescriptions filled, but sometimes pharmacists and patients miss an important opportunity to talk about medication side effects," Biotene senior brand manager Sharon Joseph said. "By taking the time to alert patients about side effects like dry mouth and proactively recommend treatment options, together we may help increase overall treatment compliance and ultimately help people feel better."

According to the study, 50% of Americans take at least one prescription drug, and taking three or more medications increases the risk of dry mouth by 35%. The survey also found that 55% of respondents wished their pharmacists would talk to them more about side effects when they pick up medications, particularly those in the 18 to 25 years age group.

 

Potential side effects are an

Potential side effects are an unavoidable part of taking any medication, or undergoing any medical intervention. The key is to not throw the baby out with the bathwater and avoid taking medications altogether. As this article mentions, side effects can often be managed in one way or another—switching medications if necessary—but too often patients do not clearly appreciate the long-term benefits of medication enough to persist with treatment. My most recent HealthPrize blog post covers the issue of side effects and adherence: http://bit.ly/1czPXcO. Katrina Firlik, MD Chief Medical Officer HealthPrize www.HealthPrize.com
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