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Take Your Medicines, Save Your Life

Canadian researchers find even a placebo drug can lower your risk

THURSDAY, June 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- People who take their medicines regularly as prescribed are at less risk of dying than those who don't -- even if the "drugs" they use are just placebos.

That's the conclusion of new Canadian research being reported in the July 1 issue of the British Medical Journal.

The finding suggests there's something about "healthy adherers" that keeps them healthier than others, beyond the effects of the drugs they so conscientiously take, according to the researchers.

People who are good at taking their medicines may be healthy in other ways, concluded the team from the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Researchers there analyzed results from 21 different studies involving more than 46,000 participants.

People who showed good adherence to drug regimens had a death risk that was half of those who didn't always follow doctor's orders, they said.

"Our findings support the tenet that good adherence to drug therapy is associated with positive health outcomes," the Edmonton team wrote.

Another theory as to why adherers are healthier than non-adherers may lie in the fact that people who fail to take their drugs as prescribed may be depressed, or purposefully choose to take lower doses.

In an accompanying commentary in the journal, Betty Chewning, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hypothesized that good adherers may do better for psychological reasons, as well. They may have a better sense of "feeling cared for" and "caring for oneself" than people who neglect their medications, she wrote.

More information

For more on managing your medicines, head to the U.S. Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, June 29, 2006
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