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People Often Share Prescription Medications

April 30, 2008

According to interviews with 700 Americans, around 23 percent of people reported sharing prescription medications with another person. 27 percent admitted to borrowing prescriptions drugs from someone else.

Allergy drugs like Allegra were cited as the most frequently shared among people at 25 percent, followed by pain relievers like Darvoset and OxyContin at 22 percent. Antibiotics such as amoxicillin followed at 21 percent.

Mood altering drugs like Paxil, Zoloft, Ritalin and Valium were reportedly shared by 7 percent of those surveyed. Just over 6 percent said they shared the prescription anti-acne drug Accutane and about 5 percent shared birth control pills.

The research study’s leader, Dr. Richard Goldsworthy, Director of Research & Development at The Academic Edge, Inc. in Bloomington, Indiana, said they weren’t surprised by the finding that people share prescription drugs. “However, the extent of sharing was higher than we expected.”

“While ideally people should never share any medications, realistically, people do in fact share them and in many cases, such as allergy medicine, doing so is beneficial and carries little risk,” Goldsworthy added.

However, Doctor’s warn that sharing prescription medicine can be associated with significant risks.

“We should probably never share antibiotics — a full course of treatment is supposed to be completed when you use them,” he said. “If you, or someone you give them to, doesn’t complete the course, then there is an increased likelihood the bacteria will develop resistance to the shared drug,” said Goldsworthy.

He warned that certain classes of drugs are “teratogenic”"”meaning they cause birth defects, sometimes even if taken a month before conception. So medications containing the anti-acne drug Accutane (generically called isotretinoin) should never be shared.

He instructed that anyone sharing pain relievers, allergy medicines, and other symptom-alleviating prescription drugs should only share them with others after providing them with instructions and warnings.

Similarly, if you borrow one, you should worry about how to take it and when not to do so,” Goldsworthy suggested. “If you borrow prescription medicine, tell your tell your doctor about it.”

Whites (23 percent) and Hispanics (26 percent) were more apt to share prescription pain medicines than were African Americans (14 percent). At 24 percent, women were more likely to share antibiotics than men, at 12 percent.

People were most likely to share prescription medicines when the medication came from a family member, or when they ran out of a prescription for a particular medication or simply didn’t have it with them at the time. Emergency situations were also a factor.

The study’s findings were published online by the American Journal of Public Health. They are scheduled to appear in the June print issue of the journal.

On the Net:

The Academic Edge, Inc.

American Journal of Public Health




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