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Doctors and pharmacists often blame the adverse effects of prescription drugs on patients for improperly taking their medications. The standard solution offered by some health professionals is to get patients to better comply with doctors instructions by using what are called compliance programs or strategies. (Another word for compliance is, of course, obedience.) Occasionally, the blame is also put on doctors for misprescribing and overprescribing, on pharmacists for failing to detect serious drug interactions, and only rarely on the drug industry for overselling drugs to doctors and now directly to patients through direct-to-consumer advertising. Even when health professionals are portrayed as being partially responsible for adverse reactions, the proposed solution is a ritual of faith, hoping the system of professional education will do a better job so that doctors will better learn about the proper use of drugs and pharmacists will do a better job of learning about and detecting dangerous drug interactions.

While important changes need to be made in the way patients, doctors, and pharmacists work together, they are not likely to occur without other, more primary changes. First, improved communication with your doctor is necessary. Second, you must have access to comprehensive objective information about the risks and benefits of prescription drugs written in nontechnical language distributed to you by your pharmacist with each new and refill prescription.

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