35% of diabetes patients don't take their medication regularly

More than one-third of diabetes patients here 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.

Not taking medication regularly increases diabetes patients' risk of being hospitalised and reduces their control of their blood sugar levels.

The NHG figure is lower than the global average.

According to the US National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine database, half of recently-diagnosed diabetes patients do not take their medication regularly.

The NHG study was published recently in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care journal. Researchers monitored 2,463 newly-diagnosed patients for five years each.

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, they monitored the patients' health conditions.

The study found 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 medication regularly.

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, 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 steps".