HealthDay News — Physicians should spend more time explaining side effects of medications to older patients than discussing dosage information, according to a study published online Feb. 5 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Timothy Ho, from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues investigated postvisit patient understanding about newly prescribed medications among 81 patients aged 50 years and older (111 newly prescribed medications) seen for an outpatient office visit. Patient survey responses were compared to information conveyed by physicians using audio recordings of office visits.

The researchers found that for more than 70% of all newly prescribed medications, patients correctly identified the number of pills, frequency of use, duration of use, and dose, regardless of whether the physician mentioned the information during the office visit. However, for 34 of 62 medications (55%) for which side effects were not conveyed, patients reported that the medication lacked side effects, which they also did for 11 of 49 medications (22%) for which physicians did discuss side effects. Potential reasons for patients’ lack of understanding about side effects included failure of physicians to mention or use the term “side effects” during visits, the prescription of multiple medications during the visit, and lack of patient engagement in the conversation.


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“It may be sufficient for physicians to provide written information about medication directions and dosing, and tailor their limited time to discussing medication side effects,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

Abstract/Full Text