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Fri Sep 27 02:27:26 UTC 2013

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Difference In Pill Color May Affect Patient’s Adherence

Generic medications are biologically identical to their brand-name
counterparts, however, their physical traits, like shape or color, usually
differ. Patients who take generic drugs that differ in color are 50 percent
more likely to stop the intake of the drug, producing possible negative
reactions, according to a new study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The
case-control study analyzed patients taking antiepileptic drugs and looked
at the probability that patients who did not refill their prescriptions had
been taking medication with a different shape or color from earlier

Aaron S. Kesselheim MD, JD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine in the
Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at BWH, and
principal investigator of this study, explains:

“Pill appearance has long been suspected to be linked to medication
adherence, yet this is the first empirical analysis that we know of that
directly links pills’ physical characteristics to patients’ adherence
behavior. We found that changes in pill color significantly increase the
odds that patients will stop taking their drugs as prescribed.”

The investigators used a large national database of filled prescriptions.
When they discovered a gap in a patient’s use of the drug, they reviewed
the previous two prescriptions filled and checked to see if they were the
same shape and color.

They found that interruptions in the prescription filling happened more
commonly when the pills had a different color. Of all patients, around
11,472 stopped getting their prescriptions; 27 percent of subjects with
non-epilepsy drug prescriptions stopped their prescriptions, and 53 percent
with epilepsy stopped their meds.

Stopping use of an antiepileptic drug, even for a couple days, can increase
the risk of seizure and impact social and medical consequences for

The conclusions suggest significant take-home information for pharmacists,
physicians, and patients.

Kesselheim says:

“Patients should be aware that their pills may change color and shape,
but that even differently-appearing generic drugs are approved by the FDA
as being bioequivalent to their brand-name counterparts and are safe to
take.  Physicians should be aware that changes in pill appearance might
explain their patients’ non-adherence. Finally, pharmacists should make a
point to tell patients about the change in color and shape when they change
generic suppliers.”

Kelly Fitzgerald. “Difference In Pill Color May Affect Patient’s
Adherence.” Medical News Today 03 Jan 2013

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Using oral pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications for a long period
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    Read and follow directions carefully. If there is an insert, save it to
refer to later.
    Never apply them to wounds or damaged skin.
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    Do not use under a tight bandage.
    Wash your hands well after using them. Avoid touching your eyes with
the product on your hands.

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