Researchers at the Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care at the University of California, Davis have found that patients who tell their doctor about a specific medication they saw in a television ad often walk out with an unnecessary prescription. The experiment sent actors on almost 300 visits to over 150 doctors’ offices in three cities feigning symptoms of various degrees of depression. The actors followed one of three approaches concerning receiving antidepressant prescriptions: asked for Paxil by name, asked for antidepressants in general, or didn’t ask at all. Interestingly, the results showed the prescription rate to be independent of the seriousness of the symptoms portrayed. Doctors were most likely to write prescriptions when a general request was made (76%), slightly less when Paxil was requested (53%, 27% of those for Paxil), and much less when no mention was made at all (<33%). While this is good news for those whose symptoms warrant aggressive treatment, the trend is bad for patients on the clinical margin.
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