Standards? What Standards? Study Shows Enormous Differences in Medications Based on Geography

Every doctor is an individual and every patient is as well.  This means that there are no two doctors who are exactly alike in terms of their judgments and personalities, and the same holds true for those that they treat.  However, there are certain standards and norms in place regarding the treatment of certain health conditions that people need to rely on no matter where they live and obtain their medication.  One would think that these norms would be in place and that there would be no reason to think that the medication someone obtains in one place would be vastly different than what they would use somewhere else.

Based on the results of a recent study, that assumption appears to be incorrect.  Researchers with the Dartmouth Atlas Project recently released the results of a study that revealed the very strange and troubling disparities in terms of medication used by patients based on where they live.  A link to the full study can be found here, and the reaction to it has been one involving surprise, confusion and wondering how this could possibly be happening. 

The researchers involved with the study analyzed prescription data from across the country for people who were using Medicare.  This program would provide a group to study that included the entire country and it would provide a look at people who are 65 years old and older, which would lead to at least some commonality in terms of the ‘typical’ healthcare needs that they encountered and therefore the medications that they would likely use.

For instance, it’s common for people who have suffered a heart attack to use a type of medication that is known as a statin.  There are several drugs that belong to this class, and according to the study 72 percent of heart attack survivors filled a statin prescription between 7 and 12 months after their attack.  However, that ranged from more than 91 percent of survivors in Ogden, Utah to only 44 percent of heart attack survivors in Abilene, Texas.

This is just one of the many examples the study provides of people in different parts of the country being provided with very different medication and perhaps forms of treatment.  These results should prompt people who review them to think about a few important things including:

  • Do not simply assume that the advice you are given by a doctor is always correct.
  • Do not quietly agree to a prescription for a certain medication if you’re not sure you agree with that choice.
  • Do not hesitate to ask if you are not provided with a prescription at all.
  • Do not hold back if you have questions in general about the treatment you are receiving.

Doctors for the most part do very good work for patients, but we need to remember that they are human and that they will make mistakes.  If you or someone you love has been harmed by such a mistake, contact the New York medical malpractice lawyers at The Fitzgerald Law Firm today to schedule a free initial consultation.