The Importance of Drug Adherence: Clonidine as an Example

Clonidine (brand name Catapres) is a centrally acting ?2 adrenergic agonist and imidazoline receptor agonist. The medication is prescribed off-label for a variety of conditions that range from tobacco withdrawal to stage fright, but its primary use is as a heart medication that benefits cardiovascular function by decreasing heart rate and relaxing blood vessels to improve circulation. Available for over 40 years, the drug is still a first-line treatment for hypertension.

Easy to Take, Dangerous to Discontinue

Unlike some medications in its class and other classes of blood pressure medications, clonidine produces relatively few side effects in the average patient — and the side effects tend to be mild to moderate when they occur. Consequently, the medication adherence rate for patients taking the drug is quite good compared to medications that routinely produce severe side effects.

However, this doesn’t mean clonidine is safer to discontinue abruptly than prescriptions that have a more worrisome side effect profile. Although it isn’t commonly discussed, sudden clonidine cessation is associated with a withdrawal syndrome that can be characterized by rebound tachycardia (i.e. a pounding heart) and rebound hypertension.

For patients taking clonidine to improve cardiovascular function, these withdrawal symptoms — which commonly last for about five to seven days — can be especially dangerous, and demonstrate the importance of drug adherence.

According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, “When not treated, [high blood pressure] can cause damage to the brain, heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of the body. Damage to these organs may cause heart disease, a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, loss of vision, and other problems.” In other words, discontinuing clonidine suddenly can be as dangerous as not taking it in the first place for those who really need it.

The Importance of Drug Adherence

Clonidine is a good example of the importance of drug adherence in general. The medication isn’t reported to have a profound withdrawal syndrome like opiates and benzodiazepines, it isn’t a controlled drug whose tendency to produce dependence is obvious, and it’s prescribed for a wide range of off-label conditions, partly due to its commendable side effect profile.

Yet, as mentioned above, stopping the medication without physician assistance can precipitate dangerous health conditions. In addition to demonstrating the importance of encouraging drug adherence for clonidine, this scenario demonstrates the importance of drug adherence for other medications that, like clonidine itself, aren’t considered especially risky, but can nonetheless produce harmful side effects when the patient isn’t medication compliant.

Who We Are

Drug Package has over 135 years of experience in supplying pharmacies, hospitals, physicians, and other parties to the healthcare process with solutions that underline the importance of drug adherence, including prescription labels, auxiliary labels, blister packaging, and much more.

To place an order, or inquire about our drug adherence solutions, please give us a call today at (800) 325-6137, or use the contact form on our website. We look forward to helping you encourage medication compliance and the positive health outcomes it supports.