New study reveals why patients quit antiplatelet medication

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Although patients stop taking their antiplatelet medication for a variety of reasons, new research suggests that better educating patients about their medication will help ensure they take it.

A new study published in JAMA Cardiology this month led by Christopher Granger, a professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and Peter Berger, senior vice president and director of clinical research at Great Neck, N.Y.-based Northwell Health, revealed that symptoms from medication cause patients to stop taking antiplatelet medication.

According to the study, 15 percent of patients never fill their first prescription for diabetes medication and many more stop taking medication before the prescribed time is over.

To better understand the reasons why patients stop taking antiplatelet medications, the researchers tested patients’ response to ticagrelor, an antiplatelet and blood-thinning drug that can prevent stroke, heart attack and other heart problems.

They randomly assigned ticagrelor or a placebo to patients who had experienced a heart attack in the last three years. Each patient was prescribed to take the medication for 33 months.

One-third of patients stopped their ticagrelor treatment during the time period while only 21 percent of patients discontinued treatment with the placebo, the study said.

Patients quit ticagrelor because they were experiencing symptoms like bleeding and difficulty breathing, which were reported five times as often as those who took the placebo. The study concluded that educating patients on the side effects of medication, especially those that do not make patients feel better while they are taking them, is important in ensuring that patients adhere to a medication regimen.

“The development of systems to improve persistent use of secondary prevention therapies ought to be a high priority,” the study said. “Patient education and engagement with behavioral tools will be important when attempting to maximize adherence, especially to treatments that do not make patients feel better while they are receiving them, such as antiplatelet therapy.”