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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Survey Shows Risks of Borrowed Medicine

One-Fourth of People Who Borrow Prescription Medicine Report Side Effects

Borrowing Prescription Medicines: What's in Demand? continued...

Goldsworthy calls the loaning and borrowing of prescription medicines among family and friends "altruistic borrowing" because the intent is good. Someone may have run out of their prescribed medicine, or they may seem to have the same symptoms as someone else.

He suspects that the respondents may have fudged the answers a bit. "In our study there is probably a slight under-reporting of the rates of borrowing." There is probably over-reporting, he says, of those who claimed to have told their provider about sharing medicines.

As to why they borrowed medicines instead of going to the doctor, Goldsworthy suspects it is more of a time issue than a money issue.

''This study simply reaffirms that people are sharing these medications and aren't terribly worried about this, but should be," Goldsworthy tells WebMD.

''They should consider this as a behavior that could cause problems," he says, with harm ranging from incorrectly diagnosing yourself to developing antibiotic resistance later.

"Prescriptions are provided to specific people for a specific purpose at a specific dose over a specific course of treatment," he says." If you mess with any of those things you are not being correctly treated for whatever your malady is, even if you manage to diagnose yourself correctly."

The research puts some specific numbers to a problem that is widely known, says Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, who is familiar with the new study and is a former practicing emergency physician.

''For me, the surprise was the high percent of people who report side effects," he tells WebMD. "It's not surprising they are there, but 25% is a big amount."

Of medication borrowers, Benjamin says: "I don't think they realize the risk involved. People need to know the risk involved. You may not know the dose you are getting. You don't know how old the medicine is."

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