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Prescription meds misuse rampant, deadly: report

A new report suggests three-quarters of Americans don't take their prescription medications as their healthcare professionals tell them to, with deadly consequences in many cases.

The briefing paper, called "Medication Adherence: Making the Case for Increased Awareness," was co-authored by Hayden B. Bosworth, Ph.D. at Duke University Medical Center and the National Consumers League.

The report blames the misuse for more than a-third of medicine-related hospitalizations and roughly 125,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, and says such misuse costs the health care system as much as $300 billion annually.

Special Section: Dr. Jennifer Ashton
Dr. Jennifer Ashton's Twitter page

On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," CBS News correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained that, "When a doctor or healthcare provider ... writes a prescription for a medication for a patient, there are a couple of things involved: the dose of the medication - how much the patient is supposed to take, how often and for how long. And the number of patients who don't comply with that recommended treatment regimen is really astounding. ... And obviously, not only can that be sub-optimal, it can be dangerous.

"I think probably the greatest reason (for the widespread non-compliance) is that today, most patients don't have that close doctor-patient relationship. So, they don't have the time or the opportunity to really discuss their concerns with their health care provider. And those concerns can range from anything from the cost of the medication to side effects, which many people are concerned about. (Also,), to actually what to expect in terms of when someone's taking those medications, how they expect to feel. So that lack of a relationship then spirals into all of these other concerns.

"The other thing is now these medications are more complicated. They're more involved. And a lot of people battling and living with chronic diseases are on multiple medications. Really stacks the deck in terms of these problems."

Ashton pointed out that, "To address this, the government has created a plan, it's a public education campaign called Script Your Future. And it really provides all aspects of the health care arena, from patients to big pharma, to doctors, to caregivers and support groups, to pharmacies, with online tools they can use to really help manage these concerns. You can get anything from a free text message to remind you when to take your medication, to charts that you can print out to keep track of your medications. And the hope is that all of these things will really help people comply with what their health care provider has suggested."

In general, Ashton recommends that patients "talk, talk, talk. Ask questions of your health care provider. Talk about your concerns. How common are the side effects that you may be concerned about? And when should you start to feel better? You certainly don't want to keep taking the medication if it's not working and treating the problem that it's supposed to treat.

"The other thing is keep written lists. With people on multiple medications, it is so important to keep a list of the medication, when you started it, when you're supposed to take it, what other medications or supplements you're also supposed to be on.

"And lastly, you really don't want to self-medicate or stop any of these medications without talking to your doctor. People get afraid. They have logistical issues. They maybe can't afford them. They share medications. All of those things are a recipe for disaster."

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