, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 183-189

Patients' understanding of prescribed drugs

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Patients must understand their physicians' recommendations if they are to follow medical advice. This study assesses the degree to which patients and physicians share basic information about medications. Patients who regularly attend the medical clinics of a large, urban teaching hospital were asked to recall the identity, purpose, and dose schedule of medications that were prescribed for them. Patients' responses were compared to the medications actually prescribed by their physicians. Patients identified 90% of medications prescribed during the visits, knew the purpose of 83%, and the correct dose schedule for 80%. Only 58% of patients knew the dosage schedule of all their medications correctly. Patients' knowledge of prescribed durgs was inversely related to the number of their medical problems and the number of medications prescribed. Lack of effective communication between physicians and patients about medications may be an important reason why patients do not follow medical advice.

The authors were with the Department of Medicine and the Department of Epidemiology and Health, McGill University and the McGill University Clinic, Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Reprint requests should be addressed to Dr. S. Fletcher, Department of Medicine Medical Clinics, North Carolina Memorial Hospital, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514. This investigation was supported in part by a National Health Research Scholar Award, No. 605-1189-22 from the Department of National Health and Welfare, Canada, by the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, and by an Establishment Grant, No. 750046, made by the Conseil de la Recherche en Santé du Québec. Portions of this paper were published in abstract form inClinical Research, Volume 24, 1976.