Gout Patients Skip Their Medications

A recent study in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy has shown that gout patients aren't taking their medications. Gout is caused by excessive blood levels of uric acid. When uric acid builds up, it crystallizes in and around the joints, often in the big toe. The joints become swollen, hot, and red causing patients to experience severe pain and discomfort.

Four Decades

Treatment measures for gout revolve in the main around drugs that serve to lower blood uric acid levels because this prevents crystals from forming and building up at the site of the gout patient's joints. For more than four decades, the medication most often prescribed for gout has been allopurinol, taken once a day. But a team of researchers led by Dr. Leslie Harrold of the University of Massachusetts found that a large percentage of gout patients skip their medication on a regular basis.

The Massachusetts research team studied 4,166 gout patients from the 1st of January 2000 until the end of June 2006. The researcher physicians placed the volunteers on typical regimens of uric acid-lowering drugs (ULD's). 97% of the participants were prescribed the drug allopurinol with the remainder meant to take either probenecid (Benuryl) or sulfinpyrazone (Anturane). However, follow-up visits marking the supposed one year of treatment revealed instead that more than half of the volunteer patients, some 56%, had failed to take their prescribed medication on a daily basis.

Pill-skipping Rates

In analyzing the statistics, the research team discovered that the rate of pill-skipping was much higher in younger patients and in those participants who had not visited their regular physicians before embarking on the prescribed course of treatment. The team also discovered that participants taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin prior to having been prescribed gout medication had a greater tendency to forego taking their gout medication. Dr. Harrold and his team commented, "Non-adherence amongst gout patients initiating ULD's is exceedingly common, particularly in younger patients with less comorbidity and no provider visits for gout prior to ULD initiation. Providers should be aware of the magnitude of non-adherence with ULD's."

An Arthritis Research Campaign spokesman commented that gout patients who skip their meds have long been a problem and added that, "It's difficult to persuade people that they need to take their drugs regularly to stop their condition flaring up when they are between flares and feeling quite well."