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J Emerg Med. 1999 Sep-Oct;17(5):909-12.

Prescription noncompliance: contribution to emergency department visits and cost.

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Department of Surgery, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore 21201, USA.


We randomly surveyed 100 patients in the acute care section of a large urban university hospital Emergency Department (ED) on 6 days with regard to the existence of and reasons for prescription noncompliance. Noncompliance was considered a major factor contributing to the ED visit if: (1) no medications had been taken for at least 48 h before the ED visit; (2) the medications, when previously taken, had routinely controlled the condition for which the patient was presenting to the ED; and (3) no other significant cause or illness was believed to have precipitated the ED visit. ED, admissions, and yearly medication costs were calculated for all patients. Noncompliance was found to be a contributing factor in the cases of 22 patients (22%). The most common medications involved were phenytoin and albuterol. Cost was the most common reason for noncompliance (11 [50%]). The average ED charge per noncompliant patient discharged was $576.61. Six noncompliant patients were admitted at an average cost of $4,834.62. The average cost of a year's medication was $520.72. Noncompliance with drug prescriptions is a significant contributor to ED visits and health care costs.

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