Complicated prescription regimens confuse patients

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted March 14, 2011

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Many older patients struggle to correctly take the multiple prescription drugs they use to treat various conditions, and vague label instructions are no help, said a study published in the Feb. 28 Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers interviewed 464 patients between age 55 and 74 and asked how they would take seven prescriptions given varying instructions -- "every 12 hours" versus "twice daily," for example.

By properly following instructions, patients could have correctly taken all their pills at four times during a 24-hour period, but they typically organized the drugs into six dosing times. Less than 15% were able to optimally organize their schedules, the study said (link).

The authors argue that standardizing prescription labels by specifying four times to take medications (morning, noon, evening and bedtime) would reduce confusion, increase drug adherence and improve patient outcomes.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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