DNAAre you a compliant or a non-compliant patient when it comes to taking your medicine? If you are in the second group, you have a lot of company. In her 2009 article “Promoting Medication Adherence in Older Adults…and the Rest of Us,” for the medical journal Diabetes Spectrum, Barbara Kocurek, Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist, and Certified Diabetes Educator, gives us some surprising statistics just how compliant adults are about taking their medications.

Even with chronic diseases increasing in the 45-64 year old population and the over 65 population, Dr. Kocurek found that “Patients with chronic diseases normally take only 50% of prescribed doses.” Their doctors may not be aware of the discrepancy, but when patients don’t take their medication, expected improvement does not happen and in some cases, patients regress and get very ill.

The article identifies many reasons why people don’t take their medication, including:

  • Cost of prescription medication,
  • Unease about adding a medication the patient doesn’t feel they need
  • Struggling with side effects that seem to make taking the medicine worse than not taking it
  • Apparent ineffectiveness of a prescribed medication
  • Feeling uncomfortable talking to the doctor about their concerns

The consequences from non-compliance is estimated to cost all of us billions in expensive care for patients who choose to be non-compliant in following doctor and pharmacist directions for taking medication.  Now, genetic science is providing guidance for patients and physicians to improve the efficacy of prescribed medications and give patients the confidence they need to follow prescription protocols.

As it turns out, your body processes most medications through a small number of metabolic pathways whose effectiveness is determined to a large extent by your genetic makeup.  This means that individuals prescribed the same medication, with the same dosage, for the same condition, may experience very different results.

Some firms specializing in the analysis of human DNA are offering individuals insights into how their genome affects the medications they take.  For example, Genelex Corporation (based in Seattle, WA) has introduced groundbreaking technology which uses your unique DNA profile, gleaned from a simple saliva swab, to analyze how fast or how slowly you metabolize medications.  This information ensures you are taking the exact dosage at the right time so the correct amount of medicine reaches the target tissues in your body. The confidence of knowing your medication is matched to your own DNA profile could go a long way to increase your compliance when treatment includes taking medication.

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