New Study Shows Doctors Less Likely to Follow Guidelines When Taking Medication
It might be reasonable to expect medical doctors and their family members to follow established guidelines when taking prescription drugs. However, according to a December 2022 report in Science Daily, a new study using Swedish data has challenged that assumption.
According to study co-author and MIT economist, Dr. Amy Finkelstein, “You should see the most adherence when you look at patients who are physicians or their close relatives. We were struck to find that the opposite holds, that physicians and their close relatives are less likely to adhere to their own medication guidelines."
Despite doctors having advanced knowledge and easy access to other medical providers, the study shows that the general Swedish population stuck to medication guidelines 54.4% of the time, while doctors and their families did so 50.6% of the time.
The paper, "A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Guideline Adherence and Access to Expertise," was published in the American Economic Review: Insights. Finkelstein’s co-authors included Petra Persson, an assistant professor of economics at Stanford University; Maria Polyakova, PhD, an assistant professor of health policy at the Stanford University School of Medicine; and Jesse M. Shapiro, the George Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration at Harvard University.
The team examined Swedish data from 2005 through 2016 with research involving 5,887,471 people. Of those, 149,399 were doctors or their close family members.
Armed with their surprising research results, the team tried to identify the cause of the lapse in doctor adherence. Their conclusion was that doctors possess "superior information about guidelines" for prescription drugs and consequently apply that information to themselves.
The largest adherence gap in the study involved antibiotics: According to Science Daily, “doctors and their families are 5.2 percentage points less in compliance [in the case of antibiotics] than everyone else.”