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Many Americans don’t take their prescription drugs as instructed by their physician. We looked at data from more than 300,000 lab tests to find out how we take our drugs incorrectly.


In the U.S. last year, test results showed 48% of people used their drugs as prescribed by their doctor.

48%
Consistent Use
52%
Inconsistent Use

United States

But a little more than half showed drug use that was inconsistent with their prescription. Here’s how it breaks down:

48%
Consistent Use
22%
Took other drugs in addition to those prescribed
12%
Took other drugs instead of those prescribed
18%
Did not take any drugs, even prescribed ones

United States

The national rate of inconsistency—a measure of inappropriate drug use that may indicate the patient is misusing one or more drugs—was 52% in 2016. The finding is a stark reminder that despite government and provider campaigns launched in recent years to educate the public about the perils of prescription drug abuse, inappropriate and potentially dangerous misuse of drugs is still prevalent. Read our full report.
Sort by type of inconsistency
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Our methodology

This analysis includes test results from patients treated in a range of practice settings across the United States, with the exception of Hawaii, North and South Dakota, Washington DC, and Wyoming. Test results from drug rehabilitation clinics and addiction specialists were excluded from the analysis, given the higher rates of testing and potentially higher rates of inconsistency in populations served in these clinical segments; thus, drug misuse rates are likely even higher than those reported here. Our analysis is based on objective laboratory data, which can suggest potential drug misuse based on the presence, or lack of, a drug in a tested specimen. This may give it advantages over analysis of prescription or self-reported patient data, For more on our methodology, visit QuestPDM.com