Influence exerted on drug prescribing by patients' attitudes and expectations and by doctors' perception of such expectations: a cohort and nested case-control study

J Eval Clin Pract. 2008 Jun;14(3):453-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2007.00901.x. Epub 2008 Mar 24.


Rationale, aims and objectives: Although demand for medication is regarded as one of the most important factors in pharmaceutical expenditure, little is known about patients' influence on drug prescribing. This study assesses the influence exerted on drug prescribing by patients' attitudes and expectations, and by doctors' perception of such expectations.

Method: We conducted a population-based cohort study covering 937 subjects attending a health centre in the northwest of Spain. Prescription-drug advertising directly targeted at patients is banned in Spain. We conducted home-based interviews at the start of follow-up to assess patients' attitudes, and monthly telephone interviews during the 1-year follow-up period to assess consumption of medical drugs and medical visits. Using nested case-control study covering 127 of the cohort subjects who attended the health centre, we assessed patients' pre-consultation expectations for prescriptions, doctors' perception of such patients' expectations, and the drugs actually prescribed.

Results: Of the total sample, 69.3% answered the home-based questionnaire, 77.6% completed 11 or more months of follow-up, and 100% of cohort subjects who attended the health centre responded to the pre-consultation survey conducted in the waiting room. Patients' attitudes, though not associated with prescription (P > 0.1), were, however, associated with demand for medical consultation (P < 0.01), self-medication (P < 0.01) and prescription expectations (P < 0.01). Although doctors' perception of patients' expectations did indeed show an association with drug prescribing (P = 0.001), there was no association between patients' expectations and doctors' perception of such expectations (P > 0.1), as these tended to be overestimated by doctors.

Conclusion: We conclude that, although doctors prescribe in accordance with what they believe their patients expect, in practice patients exert no influence on drug prescribing because their prescription expectations are misconstrued by doctors, who overestimate them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • National Health Programs / organization & administration
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Spain
  • Surveys and Questionnaires