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Generic medicine switches confuse patients and reduce adherence Posted 19/10/2012

Switching between generic medicines without explaining the reason to the patient can undermine trust in pharmacists, the Aston Medication Adherence Study (AMAS) has found [1].

The purpose of the research was to gain an understanding of the factors at play that result in non-adherence, i.e. why patients often find it difficult to take their medications as prescribed by their general practitioner (GP). The AMAS study looked at patient adherence in patients covered by 75 GP practices within the Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust.

Feedback from the study published in September 2012, found that many patients felt that unexplained changes to the brand of generic medicine they were prescribed was ‘profit motivated’.

Many patients expressed frustration at the constant changes made to the medications issued. The report found that such issues gave rise to feelings of being deceived and had an impact on the level of trust placed in pharmacists by patients.

Patients also reported that changes in generic medicines led to confusion and distress due to changes in the colour and shape of tablets, changes in the taste of medicines and changes in the packaging.

Some patients also raised their concerns about the quality of generic medicines manufactured in other countries. Low price was equated to poor quality, which raised the issue of country of origin and the perception that medicines manufactured in other countries possibly being inferior to those produced in the UK.

Patients felt that it was important that the pharmacist should inform patients of changes to their generic medicines, i.e. different brand. However, while some patients were informed of such changes, others were not.

The study recommended that the role of the pharmacist in the management of long-term oral medicines use should be enhanced to support GPs in the management of patient therapy and thereby improve adherence, especially for chronic conditions.

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1.  Langley CA, Bush J, Harvey JE, Patel A, Marriott JF. Establishing the extent of patient nonadherence to prescribed medication in the Heart of Birmingham teaching Primary Care Trust (HoBtPCT) - The Aston Medication Adherence Study (AMAS). Aston University. June 2012.

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