News Briefs

Pregnant women concerned about taking asthma medications

A national survey shows that 39% of asthmatic women who have been pregnant discontinued using their asthma medication, reduced their dosage, or did both when expecting. However, the survey found that nearly half (46%) of those using an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) to manage their asthma would plan to continue their ICS during pregnancy if it had a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Category B pregnancy rating.

The survey, conducted by the Case Management Society of America (CMSA) in Little Rock, AR, explored attitudes and experiences regarding asthma medication in 501 women of childbearing age (18-44) with asthma. Questions focused in part on women’s perceived benefits and risks of using ICSs and other asthma medication prior to and during pregnancy, and their knowledge of the FDA’s pregnancy category rating system for medications. The survey was conducted in 2003 by Harris Interactive and sponsored by AstraZeneca.

Among the survey’s key findings were:

  • Most women (82%) who use ICSs to manage asthma are concerned about birth defects if they become pregnant. More than one in three (36%) currently taking an ICS say their concern is strong enough to discontinue use of the drug during pregnancy, an action that is contrary to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommendation for effective control of persistent asthma.
  • More than half (59%) of respondents are not aware of the FDA’s pregnancy category rating.


Many Americans cut dosages to lessen drug costs, AP poll finds

Almost a third of Americans say paying for prescription drugs is a problem in their families, and many are cutting dosages to deal with the crunch, according to a poll by the Associated Press (AP). Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said the government should make it easier to buy cheaper drugs from Canada or other countries.

The poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs found that most Americans either take prescription drugs or someone in their family does. Of those, 33% said their families have trouble paying at times. For people having trouble paying their medicine bills, three-fourths say the solution often is to cut back on the dosage.

The high cost of prescription drugs will be an important issue in the presidential campaign, said eight in 10 in the poll. Almost half said it would be "very important."

A separate poll by Ipsos-Insights found that 2% of those who bought prescription drugs in the last six months have bought medicines from Canada or Mexico and brought them back to this country.

The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults was conducted Feb. 16-18, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.


Talks with docs can result in less expensive drugs for patients

Patients who discuss the costs of prescription drugs with their doctors often result in getting a less expensive prescription, according to the results of a recent Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Health-Care Poll.

Two in five adults (43%) say they discussed with their doctors the pros and cons of different prescription drugs that they might prescribe for them. More than half of these people (23% of all adults) also say that they discussed the different costs to them of different drugs their doctors might prescribe. One in seven adults (14%) say their doctor prescribed one drug rather than another because it was less expensive for them.

This study was conducted on-line within the United States between Feb. 2 and 4 among a nationwide cross section of 2,238 adults, ages 18 years and older. Figures for age, sex, race, education, region, and income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting also was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be on-line.


Elderly continue to be prescribed inappropriate medication

A recent study shows that elderly people continue to be prescribed potentially inappropriate medications at ambulatory care visits.

The study, published in the Feb. 9 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, compared 1995 and 2000 data from office-based physicians in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and from hospital outpatient departments in the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

In 1995 and 2000, at least one drug considered inappropriate by the expert panel was prescribed at about 7.8% of ambulatory care visits by elderly patients. At least one drug classified as never or rarely appropriate by the expert panel was prescribed at 3.7% and 3.8% of these visits in 1995 and 2000, respectively. Much of the problem centered on pain relievers and central nervous system drugs. The odds of potentially inappropriate prescribing were higher for visits with multiple drugs and double for female visits. Females, for example, were prescribed more potentially inappropriate pain relievers and central nervous system drugs.

Potentially inappropriate prescribing at ambulatory care visits by elderly patients, particularly women, remains a substantial problem, the researchers conclude. "Interventions could target more appropriate drug selection by physicians when prescribing pain relievers, anti-anxiety agents, sedatives, and antidepressants to elderly patients. Such behavior could eliminate a large portion of inappropriate prescribing for elderly patients and reduce its higher risk for women."