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taking medication

If you are having problems taking your medication, it might be helpful to think about the possible reasons why this is.

What is medication adherence and what does it mean for me?

For anti-epileptic medication to work at its best it needs to be taken regularly at around the same time or times each day. Medication adherence describes how well a person takes their medication compared to the treatment plan they have agreed with their doctors. People may be more likely to be adherent to medication if they have been involved in making decisions about managing their condition. To do this they need enough information and support to be able to make decisions.

Research suggests that between 30 and 50% of people do not take their medication as prescribed.

Patients’ problems with new medication for chronic conditions, N Barber et al, Quality and safety in healthcare 2004;13:172-175

How people take their medication

For some people, taking medication every day is easy. For others it is harder and this can be for many different reasons. People often fit into one of the following groups:

  • those who want to take medication and take it well;
  • those who want to take medication but can’t (for some reason);
  • those who don’t want to take medication and so don’t; and
  • those who don’t want to take medication but do so to please others.

How someone feels about taking their medication may change over time.

It is effective as long as I remember to take it.

Individual with epilepsy

Those who don’t want to take medication

Sometimes called ‘intentional non-adherence’, this is where someone decides not to take the medication as agreed. This might be deciding not to take it at all or deciding to take it but differently to how it was prescribed (such as increasing or decreasing the dose). Reasons for this could include:

  • their experiences of taking medication (for example, if they have experienced side effects on previous medication they may be concerned about side effects on new medication);
  • their personal circumstances (for example, if taking medication does not fit into their daily routine or lifestyle);
  • their preferences (such as not wanting to take medication); and
  • their beliefs about their condition or its treatment (for example feeling that taking medication labels them as being ‘ill’ or feeling that the medication is not necessary if they have been seizure- free for a while).

Those who want to take medication but can’t

Sometimes called ‘unintentional non-adherence’, this is where someone wants to take the medication but is unable to. Reasons for this could include:

  • forgetting to take their medication;
  • being unable to handle the medication (such as having problems getting bottles open or getting pills out of blister packs); and
  • being unable to take the medication (for example, if they find it hard to swallow tablets).

How do you get on with your medication?

Reading through the explanations above you might recognise your own situation and how you feel about taking medication.

If you have concerns about the need to take medication it might be helpful for you to discuss this with your specialist, epilepsy specialist nurse or GP, or ask them for more information to help you make decisions.