(RxWiki News) People with chronic conditions often identify their medication by how it looks. However, the increased use of generic medication could make this identification method dangerous.
A recent study found that many older adults with hypertension (high blood pressure) did not know the name of their medication.
The researchers discovered that adults who could only identify their medication by physical appearance were more likely to have uncontrolled blood pressure and hospitalizations in the past year, and those who could not identify by either name or appearance were likely to miss doses.
"Discuss your medication regimen in detail with your doctor."
The lead author of this study was Jennifer L. Lenahan from the Health Literacy and Learning Program in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.
The study included 215 adults who had been previously diagnosed with hypertension.
All of the participants had been patients at one of six primary care safety-net centers (clinics for low-income patients) in Chicago, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Shreveport, Louisiana between July 2005 and August 2007.
Sixty-eight percent of the participants were female, and 80 percent were African-American. They all spoke English, and the average age was 60 years old.
The researchers asked the participants if they were taking medication for hypertension. And if they were, the participants were asked if they knew the name of their medication.
If the participants were not able to name their medication, they were asked to describe the appearance of the medication.
In addition, the researchers recorded the participants' most recent blood pressure measurements, number of chronic conditions, and list of current medications taken from their medical records.
The participants then self-reported demographic data (age, sex, race) and the number of hospitalizations and the number of emergency room visits they had experienced in the past year. Lastly, the participants were tested to see if they had limited or adequate literacy.
The researchers found that 47 percent of the participants had inadequate literacy skills, and 26 percent of them had three or more chronic conditions.
The findings also showed that 130 (60 percent) participants were able to correctly name their medication, 55 (26 percent) were able to identify their medication by appearance, and 30 (14 percent) were not able to identify their medication in any way.
Out of the name identification group, only 38 percent had limited literacy compared to 67 percent of the participants who were only able to describe the correct appearance of their medication, and 50 percent of the group that could not identify their medication at all.
Twenty-three percent of the group that identified by name reported missing medication doses in the past week compared to 22 percent of the group that identified by appearance and 45 percent of the group that could not identify at all.
The researchers found that the participants who identified by appearance had an 81 percent increased risk of missing doses than the participants who identified by name.
Forty-six of the group that identified by name had uncontrolled blood pressure, versus 60 percent of the appearance group and 45 percent of the no identify group.
Meaning that there was a 26 percent increased risk of having uncontrolled blood pressure for the appearance group compared to the medication name identification group.
The findings showed that 39 percent of the name identification group had visited the emergency room in the last year, compared to 50 percent of the appearance group and 55 percent of the group that was unable to identify their medication.
Compared to the group that identified the name of their medication, the appearance group had a 32 percent increased risk of having emergency room visits, and the group that was unable to identify had a 33 percent increased risk.
Only 23 percent of the name identification group reported being hospitalized in the past year, versus 39 percent of the appearance group and 35 percent of the no identification group.
The researchers determined that the group that could identify by appearance had a 71 percent increased risk of being hospitalized compared to the name identification group. And the group that could not identify had a 35 percent increased risk compared to the group that identified by name.
The authors mentioned a few limitations.
First, all the participants came from safety-net care centers so the findings may not be applicable to the general population. Second, the study population was small and mostly African-American. Third, the researchers used self-reported data to determine medication adherence, number of emergency room visits, and number of hospitalizations.
This study was published in the December edition of the Journal of Health Communication.