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Report shows over 60 percent of Americans don't follow doctors' orders in taking prescription meds

We've previously written on Scope about the our country's growing problem with prescription drug abuse, specifically in New York and Florida. Now comes a concerning report showing that more than half of Americans fail to follow doctors' orders when taking medication or take others' pills.

In the report, slated to be released later this week, Quest Diagnostics examined nearly 76,000 urine samples submitted from doctors' offices and Quest's patient-service centers last year and matched them with patients' medical records. Participants' identities were protected and results from drug-rehabilitation clinics were excluded. The Health Blog reports:

The results indicated 63% of people on prescription drugs strayed from their doctor's orders, Quest says, and many of the drugs found were painkillers, sedatives or amphetamines that weren't prescribed for the sampled patient. Researchers tested for 26 commonly prescribed and abused medications and for illegal drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine. Samples were taken from 46 states and the District of Columbia.


Of the people that didn't follow their doctors' orders, two in five weren't taking any medications even though they had been prescribed, suggesting some people can't afford them, skip treatments or even divert them to the black market, Quest says. The remaining 60% of misusers were taking medications that weren't prescribed by their doctors.

Many people also combined drugs without a doctor's oversight, which is dangerous because of how some medications can interact with each other, Cohen says. Results of misuse were consistent across income levels, gender and the level of health coverage, he adds. One limitation of the study, it notes, is that some patients may have been tested because their doctors suspected misuse. Others were randomly selected.

Previously: New York's growing oxycodone problem, Prescription drug addiction: How the epidemic is shaking up the policy world, Study shows prescribing higher doses of pain meds may increase risk of overdose and Florida's prescription-drug problem
Photo by Robbie Sproule

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