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Report: What drugs you're prescribed depends on where you live

October 18, 2013

When it comes to what medications are prescribed for particular ailments, it's easy to assume that treatment is similar for most people. However, a number of factors come into play, ranging from prior medical history to what other drugs patients are currently taking. Now, a new study suggests that whether seniors at retirement communities in one state may be prescribed different medications compared to older adults residing in other locations, according to findings published by the Dartmouth Atlas Project.

Many potential reasons
The findings are based on an extensive analysis of the 37 million Americans who are covered under the Medicare prescription drug plan in 2010. Researchers found some significant differences between states. For instance, 91 percent of seniors in Utah who survived heart attacks filled prescriptions for statin drugs, while only 44 percent of similarly situated seniors in Texas did the same. The disparity was similar when it came to fracture-preventing drugs. Specifically, just 7 percent of New Jersey seniors who had an osteoporosis-related injury were given meds to prevent fractures, but that figure swelled to 28 percent in Hawaii. Experts say the results should come as a signal to medical professionals.

"[Doctors] really need to ask themselves, 'Is there a good reason why my patients are getting less effective care than patients in the other regions,'" lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Munson told The Associated Press. 

Signal to patients
While the results can have an impact on the way doctors address senior care, experts say it's also important for the patients themselves to ask questions when being prescribed medication, the AP notes. There are a number of important questions that both seniors and their caregivers should be sure to ask when discussing treatment options with doctors because it can have a significant impact on healthy aging.

There are many questions that can help alleviate some uncertainty surrounding a particular drug regimen. The National Institutes of Health recommends asking how exactly a particular medicine treats the condition, how it will affect an individual's day-to-day life, what the side effects are and if there are any restrictions or special instructions. The patients themselves should also take the time to do some research on their own so they know what kind of drugs are used to treat their particular ailment.