While the reasons for prescription noncompliance vary--from addiction to finances to poor math skills--one thing's for sure: the problem does not discriminate. According to a national study of almost 76,000 urine screens conducted by Quest Diagnostics, high rates of prescription misuse were found in women and men across all ages, income levels and government and commercial health plan coverage, according to a company announcement. Overall, 63 percent of the patients tested did not take their medications as directed. Out of this group, 50 percent had meds for central nervous system agents, 48 percent were on amphetamines and 44 percent used pain medications.
In 60 percent of the total mismatches, the screens found that patients took drugs that were different from or in addition to those the doctors had ordered, potentially opening the door to dangerous drug interactions. In the remaining 40 percent, the screens picked up no drugs at all, a possible sign patients were foregoing or selling their prescriptions due to financial constraints.
As MedPage Today points out, while Quest Diagnostic stands to benefit from promoting broader use of urinalysis to monitor medication compliance, researchers said their findings may "support medical recommendations that physicians perform routine urine testing to monitor prescription drug misuse."
It wasn't only adults who did not comply with medication instructions. According to the Quest study, as many as 70 percent of children 10 to 17 years old had screening results inconsistent with physicians' orders. Meanwhile, a separate study of parents of children under age 8 found that parents with poor math skills were more likely to give their children incorrect dosages of liquid medication, HealthDay reported.
Among the 289 parents assessed, 83 percent had poor math skills, with 27 percent at the third-grade level or below. Overall, 41 percent of the parents made a dosing error. To combat confusion, researchers H. Shonna Yin, assistant professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Center, and colleagues recommended that providers review and give parents pictures of dosing instruments filled to the correct level for specific prescriptions.