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The study found discontinuation and cyclical use of the type 2 diabetes drug known as metformin was common.
Metformin, which is prescribed to 85% of people newly diagnosed to control type 2 diabetes, is a tablet taken that lowers blood sugar levels in patients.
The study found younger patients and ethnic groups most burdened by type 2 diabetes were more likely to stop taking the drug. However they were also more likely to start using the drug again after some time, in a cyclical nature.
The number of Maori, Pacific peoples and Indo-Asians, as well as those of lower socioeconomic status, who develop the disease is much higher than others in New Zealand.
Lead author Dr Simon Horsburgh, of the department of preventive and social medicine, was concerned by the findings.
“This will likely reduce its [metformin’s] clinical effectiveness, potentially leading to these groups experiencing greater ill-health due to faster disease progression and increased type 2 diabetes complications.
“They will not be benefiting as much from the metformin as the periods of discontinuation are substantial,” Dr Horsburgh said.
The study highlighted the part health professionals had in keeping their patients on the medication.
“Health professionals need to be aware of how their services are provided and, in particular, how accessible they are to people from different backgrounds and with competing demands on their time and finances.
“The health system, and how health services are provided, have an important role to play in medication adherence, and therefore the ultimate success of treatment.
“Health professionals, in turn, have an important role to play in deciding how health services are provided in their communities.”