To err is human--so the saying goes. But when it comes to something as potentially dangerous as prescription drugs, mistakes can be deadly. That’s why the results of laboratory tests for monitoring prescription drug compliance are so disturbing.
In analyzing about 76,000 laboratory tests, Quest Diagnostics found that 3 in 5 patients (63%) were not taking their medication as prescribed.
And just as significant is the fact that the problem was found among all classes of drugs and in men and women across all ages, income levels and government vs. commercial health plan coverage.
- Some of the highest rates of misuse were found among children, young adults and older patients. Tests indicated that as many as 70% of children ages 10 to 17 years and 73% of adults ages 18 to 24 years were not following Rx orders. Inconsistencies were found in about 50% of adults ages 65 years or older.
- While the rates of Rx drug misuse were about the same between males and females at 63%, males used illicit drugs more often than women, with 2-in-10 (21%) testing positive for cocaine, marijuana or PCP, compared with 15% of females.
- Non-compliance rates were similar for low-income areas (median income of $29,000 or less) and high-income areas (median income of $80,000 or more), although patients at the lowest income level were more likely to test negative for their prescription drug(s) than those at the highest income level (42% compared to 35% inconsistency, respectively). This suggests that less affluent people may be more likely to limit or stop using their prescribed medications for financial reasons.
The study reveals that the problem of prescription drug misuse is widespread. And while it doesn’t answer the big questions, such as “Why is this happening?” It does reveal some clues and the need for further research and solutions.
In the meantime, there are some steps you can take to help prevent medication errors. Start with Four Ways to be Smart and Safe with Medicines.
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