It’s common among the elderly to have a large number of medications that must be taken every day and in some cases multiple times a day. Organising these drugs is an important task, but one that often becomes difficult as people age.
Now, scientists are working on alternative ways of administering medications that would move away from daily pills. It could result in a single dose once a week, month or even a year, making drugs much easier to manage, reports the Mail Online.
It comes as NHS England suggests as much as half of the medications prescribed for chronic illness aren’t taken as instructed. Sometimes this happens accidentally, as doses are missed due to confusion or forgetfulness and on other occasions, those without symptoms decide to skip pills in case of side effects.
Either way, it costs NHS England £300 million a year, with complications and worsening conditions common consequences of missing doses. Researchers have therefore been working on medicines that encourage compliance.
There are a number of different approaches that have been taken to tackling the challenge. These range from ingredients that bind to proteins in the blood for slower release through to innovative coatings that keep the drug active for longer.
One of the areas likely to be overhauled is cholesterol, which around eight million people in the UK manage with statins. These tablets are supposed to be swallowed once or twice a day, but studies say only 50 per cent of patients are still taking them six months after being prescribed. A year on, this drops further to 30 per cent.
A fortnightly injection has been available on the NHS since 2019, which can be used instead of taking daily statins. It inhibits the PCSK9 protein, improving the liver’s ability to remove low-density lipoproteins (LDL) from the bloodstream and reducing cholesterol by up to 60 per cent.
Now, a new jab is being trialled called inclisiran, which works to cut down the production of PCSK9 in the first place. It’s thought to be more effective than statins and only needs to be injected twice a year, making it a convenient option.
If it’s approved, NHS England predicts inclisiran could save as many as 30,000 lives over the next decade. It could also pave the way for similar innovations in administering medication that has traditionally been prescribed in a daily pill.
Confusion with medication is often an issue that relatives of the elderly become concerned about and can be a contributing factor in finding them a care home. Staff take responsibility for drugs and ensure they are taken at the right time each day.
This offers peace of mind to loved ones, relieving them of the need to worry that their relatives are taking too many pills or missing doses.