Rx: Take as prescribed by your doctor - or not

Posted on behalf of The Bell Law Firm, PLLC on May 04, 2012 in Personal Injury

For a recently released study, researchers analyzed nearly 76,000 urine samples from patients across the country and tested them for several dozen commonly prescribed and abused drugs. The drugs tested included amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and prescription pain medications. With pain medications, the risk of serious side effects is substantial when they are taken as prescribed; when abused or misused, the drugs can be fatal.

The study concluded that almost two out of three of those patients are misusing their prescription medications. Fewer -- 21 percent of men and 15 percent of women -- tested positive for an illegal substance.

The researchers also found that a great many patients are mixing drugs without physician oversight. More than 60 percent of the test results were inconsistent with what the doctor prescribed. In most of these particular cases, the drug analysis detected medications other than what the doctor ordered.

The study found young patients, Medicaid patients and those with a lower income who make less than $29,000 per year were more likely to have inconsistent results. These findings suggest that less affluent Americans are more likely to restrict or forgo taking prescribed medications for financial reasons.

According to a medical school professor, the study offers a unique perspective concerning the problem of prescription drug abuse by comparing what the doctor indicates is the patient's prescribed medication to what is actually in the patient's system. Inconsistent results declined slightly to 55 percent if a patient had a repeat drug test a month later.

The professor further believes the findings from the study support medical association recommendations to perform routine urine testing for prescription drug monitoring. A panel of experts with the American Academy of Pain Medicines recently recommended drug testing of chronic pain patients at least four times a year after seeing another study.

While the most recent study results offer useful insights, commentators pointed out that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

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