Aims: To assess knowledge about oral hypoglycaemic agents amongst patients with diabetes and non-specialist healthcare professionals.
Method: An anonymous questionnaire was used in two centres to assess knowledge about oral agents amongst 261 patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (mean age 64 years) and 102 health professionals (including doctors, nurses and pharmacists).
Results: Only 15% of patients knew the correct mechanism of action of their medication and 62% took tablets correctly in relation to food. Only 10% of those taking a sulphonylurea knew it may cause hypoglycaemia and 20% of those taking metformin were aware of its gastrointestinal side-effects. Twenty per cent forgot to take their tablets at least once a week and 5% omitted tablets because of hyperglycaemia. Only 35% of patients recalled receiving advice about their medication with only 1% receiving written advice. The healthcare professionals showed important gaps in their knowledge on dosage timing and mechanism of action, particularly with respect to metformin and acarbose.
Conclusion: It is concluded that patients' and professionals' knowledge of oral hypoglycaemic agents is poor. More appropriate advice and information to patients from prescribers may improve patient understanding and hence compliance. Community pharmacists are ideally placed to reinforce this information.