UA prof, student publish prescription-misuse study

By Jennifer Quilici

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A study by the UA College of Pharmacy was published Monday and estimates that the misuse of prescription drug medications costs the United States an average of $76.6 billion each year.

The study, "Drug-Related Morbidity and Mortality" is a model estimating the cost of illness in the U.S. co-authored by J. Lyle Bootman, Dean of the UA College of Pharmacy and Jeffrey A. Johnson, a doctoral student at the College of Pharmacy's Center for Pharmaceutical Economics.

"Given the estimates of costs associated with drug-related problems, even a 10 percent reduction in this inappropriate behavior could lead to substantial savings to the health care system and to society as a whole," Bootman said.

From data collected from pharmacy practitioners, the researchers developed the model to estimate the costs of drug-related problems, including non-compliance with medical instructions, drug interactions, dosage problems and adverse drug reactions, Johnson said.

The inappropriate behavior the study talks about comes from a lack of time on the part of physicians and pharmacists, said William L. Fritz, pharmacy director at University Medical Center.

Fritz said that because health professionals are rushed, many patients do not understand completely why they are taking a certain drug or how they should be correctly administered.

"Many of these adverse effects could be avoided if we (health professionals) spent more time with patients teaching them about the drugs and learning more about them (the patients) and their lifestyles," Fritz said.

Fritz said he believes people in the medical profession do a good job working with prescription drugs overall, but it is sometimes difficult because of time constraints when accounting for people's lifestyles.

Although the study suggests that pharmacists are responsible for the majority of pharmaceutical care, Johnson said patients also play a key role in their care by following medication guidelines.

Johnson said that one of the biggest problems is non-compliance from patients; to avoid this, patients need to take medicine as it is prescribed.

Another problem, Johnson said, is that patients go to more than one pharmacy which causes problems like duplicate therapies and drug interactions.

Fritz also said that patients are going to multiple pharmacies and physicians, which is dangerous because no one health professional may have a complete understanding of their medical background.

The study, funded by the Coalition for Consumer's Access to Pharmaceutical Care, was completed in July, 1994 and featured in the Oct. 9 issue of the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine.

With the publication of the study, Johnson said they hope to increase awareness of health care providers and to encourage them to provide pharmaceutical care that attempts to recognize drug-related problems.

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