Your Doctor Doesn’t Even Follow Medication Instructions

A new study shows that your physician is actually worse than you are at reading all of the fine print on pill bottles
Your Doctor Doesn’t Even Follow Medication Instructions

The next time your doctor tells you to lay off the ibuprofen, it might be because they want more for their own pain relief.

In a new study, passive-aggressively titled “A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Guideline Adherence and Access to Expertise,” researchers from MIT found that physicians and their families are more likely to violate medication instructions compared to the rest of us plebs. “There’s a lot of concern that people don’t understand guidelines, that they’re too complex to follow, that people don’t trust their doctors,” Amy Finkelstein, a professor in MIT’s Department of Economics, said in a press release. “If that’s the case, you should see the most adherence when you look at patients who are physicians or their close relatives. We were struck to find that the opposite holds — that physicians and their close relatives are less likely to adhere to their own medication guidelines.”

Finkelstein and her team analyzed prescription drug purchases, hospital visits and medical diagnoses from nearly 6,000,000 people in Sweden, including 149,399 doctors and their family members. While the general populace only followed medication guidelines 54.4 percent of the time, doctors and their kin were about 3.8 percentage points behind that. 

As to why, the researchers suspect it’s because doctors think they have “superior information about guidelines.” In other words, it’s part of the whole god-complex thing. 

This was particularly true of antibiotics — perhaps because the narrow-spectrum antibiotics doctors typically prescribe to patients aren’t what’s best for the individual patient (who might develop a resistance to the medications, for instance), but better for containing the spread of the infection. “From a public-health perspective, what you want to do is kill off (the infection) with the narrow-spectrum antibiotic,” Finkelstein explained. “You can imagine the reason doctors are less likely to follow the guidelines than other patients is because they … know there’s this wedge between what’s good for them as a patients and what’s good for society.”

Either way, the diagnosis here is a clear-cut case of do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do — if, of course, you can even understand them through all of that pill-swallowing.

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