Older patients confused about multiple drug dosing

Feb 28, 2011

Many older patients, who take an average of seven medicines a day, are so confused by the vague instructions on prescription bottles that they don't realize they can combine their medications to take them more efficiently. A new Northwestern Medicine study shows patients thought they had to take seven medicines at least seven and up to 14 separate times a day.

"A complex and confusing regimen means people are less likely to take their drugs properly, and that means they are not getting the full benefits of their medicine," said Michael Wolf, associate professor of medicine and of learning sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He is lead author of the study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, that will be published February 28 in .

Wolf an colleagues have proposed a universal medication schedule that standardizes medicine prescriptions into doses at four clearly identified periods of day – morning, noon, evening and bedtime (instead of twice daily or every eight hours.)

"Standardizing the times to take medicine will help patients safely take their medicine, make their lives easier and improve their health outcomes," Wolf said. He was on the panel of the U.S. Pharmacopeia that recently released guidance for drug labeling praising the four daily doses approach.

For the study, Wolf and colleagues interviewed 464 patients, with an average age of 63, at an academic general medicine practice and three federally qualified health centers in Chicago to see how patients would schedule a typical seven-drug regimen. The majority of participants were well educated, but nearly half had low or marginal health literacy skills.

Wolf found people overcomplicate the dosing schedule of prescription drugs. Even if two drugs were prescribed in the same manner (one pill twice daily), nearly a third of patients (30.8 percent) would not take them together. When two drugs could have been taken together but doctor instructions were written differently (one pill twice daily versus one pill every 12 hours) 79 percent of patients would not consolidate these medicines and take them at the same time. If instructions for two drugs were the same with the only exception that one said "with food and water," half the patients would not take the two drugs at the same time.

Low health literacy was the greatest predictor of patients dosing their medications a greater number of times per day.

Explore further: FDA approves vaccine to block meningitis strain (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A pregnant woman does not look like an olive

Jan 25, 2010

Replacing confusing language and icons on standard warnings labels for prescription medicine and listing only the most important warnings could make a big difference in how well patients understand the instructions that are ...

Older adults at high risk for drug interactions

Dec 23, 2008

At least one in 25 older adults, about 2.2 million people in the United States, take multiple drugs in combinations that can produce a harmful drug-drug interaction, and half of these interactions involve a non-prescription ...

Prescription labels geared toward pharmacies, not patients

Sep 11, 2007

The labels on most prescription drug containers highlight the pharmacy’s name or logo rather than instructions on how to take the medication, reports a new study in the September 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Me ...

Recommended for you

A new tool in drug overdose prevention

18 hours ago

The Center for Disease Control reported earlier this month that the heroin overdose death rate across 28 states it surveyed doubled between 2010 and 2012. This sharp increase and the chilling statistics that say more than 11 ...

Nasal spray treats heroin overdose

Oct 28, 2014

"Every year, drug overdoses are responsible for roughly 1000 ambulance calls in Oslo," says Arne Skulberg, an anaesthesiologist, a PhD candidate at NTNU and the 2014 winner of Norway's Researcher Grand Prix ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.