The effect of counseling on willingness to use a hypothetical medication and perceptions of medication safety

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Abstract

Background:

Poor medication adherence is an ongoing issue, and contributes to increased hospitalizations and healthcare costs. Although most adverse effects are rare, the perceived risk of adverse effects may contribute to low adherence rates.

Objectives:

The objective of this study was to determine how adverse effect likelihood and pharmacist counseling on adverse effect prevention affects individuals': (1) willingness to use a hypothetical medication and (2) perceptions of medication safety.

Methods:

This study used a 3 × 3 experimental design. Participants (n = 601) viewed a hypothetical scenario asking them to imagine being prescribed an anti-asthma medication that could cause fungal infections of the throat. Participants were randomized to 1 of 9 scenarios that differed on: probability of developing an infection (5%, 20%, no probability mentioned) and whether they were told how to reduce the risk of infection (no prevention strategy discussed, prevention strategy discussed, prevention strategy discussed with explanation for how it works). Participants were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Results:

Participants were less willing to take the medication (F = 12.86, p < 0.0001) and considered it less safe (F = 13.11, p < 0.0001) when the probability of fungal infection was presented as 20% compared to 5% or when no probability information was given. Participants were more willing to take the medication (F = 11.78, p < 0.0001) and considered it safer (F = 11.17, p < 0.0001) when a prevention strategy was given. Finally, there was a non-statistically significant interaction between the probability and prevention strategy information such that provision of prevention information reduced the effect of variation in the probability of infection on both willingness to use the medication and perceived medication safety.

Conclusions:

Optimal risk communication involves more than informing patients about possible adverse effects. Pharmacists could potentially improve patient acceptance of therapeutic recommendations, and allay medication safety concerns, by counseling about strategies patients can implement to reduce the perceived risk of adverse effects.

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