Phone: 612-624-5551
unews@umn.edu
24-hr number: 612-293-0831

Advanced Search

This is an archived story; this page is not actively maintained. Some or all of the links within or related to this story may no longer work.

For the latest University of Minnesota news, visit Discover.

Feature

A pill bottle.

In a University study on women and medications, about 92 percent of the participants took prescription drugs and 96.5 percent self-medicated with an over-the-counter medication.

Women use more medications

From eNews, June 24, 2004

According to a University study, women take a higher-than-expected number of medications and they're unlikely to tell their doctors about them all. The study also concludes that health care providers must spend more time asking about medication usage. The study interviewed more than 570 nonpregnant women over a 42-month period and after visits to their gynecologists. About 92 percent of the participants reported taking prescription medications, 96.5 percent self-medicated with an over-the-counter medication, and 59.1 percent used herbal supplements. The researchers also found that each interview often revealed additional medications the participants didn't report in previous interviews. (Participants were asked a set of open- and close-ended questions on three different occasions). They also discovered that although a woman reported taking a medication during the first interview, sometimes she failed to mention it on subsequent visits without being prompted. Findings from the study indicate that patients may not mention medications to a physician unless he or she had prescribed the drug or if they don't associate their disease and medication with the physician they're seeing. For example, patients did not always tell the gynecologist that they were taking high blood pressure medication prescribed by another doctor. "Patients may not perceive that their blood pressure medication was something their gynecologist needed to know about," says Timothy Tracy, a pharmacy professor and one of the article's authors. Among the women who took prescription medications, 20 percent used more than one medication and 39 percent took more than four medications. The most commonly prescribed medication was antibiotics, some of which are thought to reduce the efficacy of birth control pills. The researchers also noted that several women taking oral contraceptives, as well as some who were on antidepressants, self-medicated with St. John's Wort--an herbal supplement shown to cause potentially harmful interactions with prescription antidepressants and birth control pills. "Will this drug interaction kill you? Probably not," says Tracy. "Can you experience serious adverse effects? Yes. We really need to inquire better about patients taking herbal and over-the-counter medications. The care providers need to ask, and patients need to tell." The study, conducted in conjunction with obstetrics or gynecology clinics at West Virginia University, was published in the February 24 issue of American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.