(1/2434) Legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon--the first year's experience.

BACKGROUND AND METHODS: On October 27, 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide. We collected data on all terminally ill Oregon residents who received prescriptions for lethal medications under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act and who died in 1998. The data were obtained from physicians' reports, death certificates, and interviews with physicians. We compared persons who took lethal medications prescribed under the act with those who died from similar illnesses but did not receive prescriptions for lethal medications. RESULTS: Information on 23 persons who received prescriptions for lethal medications was reported to the Oregon Health Division; 15 died after taking the lethal medications, 6 died from underlying illnesses, and 2 were alive as of January 1, 1999. The median age of the 15 patients who died after taking lethal medications was 69 years; 8 were male, and all 15 were white. Thirteen of the 15 patients had cancer. The case patients and controls were similar with regard to sex, race, urban or rural residence, level of education, health insurance coverage, and hospice enrollment. No case patients or controls expressed concern about the financial impact of their illness. One case patient and 15 controls expressed concern about inadequate control of pain (P=0.10). The case patients were more likely than the controls to have never married (P=0.04) and were more likely to be concerned about loss of autonomy due to illness (P=0.01) and loss of control of bodily functions (P=0.02). At death, 21 percent of the case patients and 84 percent of the controls were completely disabled (P<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: During the first year of legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, the decision to request and use a prescription for lethal medication was associated with concern about loss of autonomy or control of bodily functions, not with fear of intractable pain or concern about financial loss. In addition, we found that the choice of physician-assisted suicide was not associated with level of education or health insurance coverage.  (+info)

(2/2434) Randomised controlled trial of effect of feedback on general practitioners' prescribing in Australia.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect on general practitioners' prescribing of feedback on their levels of prescribing. DESIGN: Randomised controlled trial. SETTING: General practice in rural Australia. PARTICIPANTS: 2440 full time recognised general practitioners practising in non-urban areas. INTERVENTION: Two sets of graphical displays (6 months apart) of their prescribing rates for 2 years, relative to those of their peers, were posted to participants. Data were provided for five main drug groups and were accompanied by educational newsletters. The control group received no information on their prescribing. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Prescribing rates in the intervention and control groups for the five main drug groups, total prescribing and potential substitute prescribing and ordering before and after the interventions. RESULTS: The intervention and control groups had similar baseline characteristics (age, sex, patient mix, practices). Median prescribing rates for the two groups were almost identical before and after the interventions. Any changes in prescribing observed in the intervention group were also seen in the control group. There was no evidence that feedback reduced the variability in prescribing nor did it differentially affect the very high or very low prescribers. CONCLUSIONS: The form of feedback evaluated here-mailed, unsolicited, centralised, government sponsored, and based on aggregate data-had no impact on the prescribing levels of general practitioners.  (+info)

(3/2434) A comparison of three methods of setting prescribing budgets, using data derived from defined daily dose analyses of historic patterns of use.

BACKGROUND: Prescribing matters (particularly budget setting and research into prescribing variation between doctors) have been handicapped by the absence of credible measures of the volume of drugs prescribed. AIM: To use the defined daily dose (DDD) method to study variation in the volume and cost of drugs prescribed across the seven main British National Formulary (BNF) chapters with a view to comparing different methods of setting prescribing budgets. METHOD: Study of one year of prescribing statistics from all 129 general practices in Lothian, covering 808,059 patients: analyses of prescribing statistics for 1995 to define volume and cost/volume of prescribing for one year for 10 groups of practices defined by the age and deprivation status of their patients, for seven BNF chapters; creation of prescribing budgets for 1996 for each individual practice based on the use of target volume and cost statistics; comparison of 1996 DDD-based budgets with those set using the conventional historical approach; and comparison of DDD-based budgets with budgets set using a capitation-based formula derived from local cost/patient information. RESULTS: The volume of drugs prescribed was affected by the age structure of the practices in BNF Chapters 1 (gastrointestinal), 2 (cardiovascular), and 6 (endocrine), and by deprivation structure for BNF Chapters 3 (respiratory) and 4 (central nervous system). Costs per DDD in the major BNF chapters were largely independent of age, deprivation structure, or fundholding status. Capitation and DDD-based budgets were similar to each other, but both differed substantially from historic budgets. One practice in seven gained or lost more than 100,000 Pounds per annum using DDD or capitation budgets compared with historic budgets. The DDD-based budget, but not the capitation-based budget, can be used to set volume-specific prescribing targets. CONCLUSIONS: DDD-based and capitation-based prescribing budgets can be set using a simple explanatory model and generalizable methods. In this study, both differed substantially from historic budgets. DDD budgets could be created to accommodate new prescribing strategies and raised or lowered to reflect local intentions to alter overall prescribing volume or cost targets. We recommend that future work on setting budgets and researching prescribing variations should be based on DDD statistics.  (+info)

(4/2434) Does the availability of prescribed drugs affect rates of self poisoning?

The trends in self-poisoning rates and in rates of prescribing of the major drug groups were compared. Over the period 1981-91, barbiturate prescribing and self poisoning both fell by 80%; for antidepressants, prescribing increased by over 40% and self poisoning by 30%; for antipsychotics, both rose by 30%; for benzodiazepines, poisoning fell by 30% and prescribing by 20%. Even for analgesic drugs, which are also available over the counter, there was a correspondence between changes in self poisoning and prescribing. The availability of prescribed drugs is directly related to their use for self poisoning. Restricting the availability of these drugs is a possible preventative strategy, although further research on this is needed.  (+info)

(5/2434) Following advice in general practice.

A random sample of 521 patients to whom prescriptions had been issued in an urban general practice were investigated to see how well they followed advice about taking medicines.Most factors that have been previously reported as affecting this did not appear to do so. A very high degree of compliance was achieved and it is suggested that the key factor in this is the relationship between doctor and patient.  (+info)

(6/2434) Recent developments in maintenance prescribing and monitoring in the United Kingdom.

After a brief historical review of British drug legislation and public and governmental attitudes, this paper describes the wide range of policies and practices that have appeared since the explosion of illicit drug abuse in the 1960s. The spectrum goes from a reluctance to prescribe at all to maintenance on injectable opiates. Comparisons are made with differing attitudes to the availability of abortion in public health services. Compared with 5 years ago, about three times more methadone is being prescribed. There is a steady increase in prescriptions for injectable methadone but heroin maintenance is still rare. The "British System" permits great flexibility in the choice of opiates for maintenance. Some amphetamine-prescribing programmes also exist. Hair analysis for drugs to monitor levels of both prescribed and unprescribed drugs is a welcome and promising alternative to undignified and often misleading urine tests.  (+info)

(7/2434) Harm reduction in Bern: from outreach to heroin maintenance.

In Switzerland, harm-reduction programs have the support of the national government and many localities, in congruence with much of the rest of Europe and in contrast with the United States, and take place in public settings. The threat of AIDS is recognized as the greater harm. This paper describes the overall national program and highlights the experience from one city; the program is noteworthy because it is aimed at gathering comparative data from controlled trials.  (+info)

(8/2434) Near-patient test for C-reactive protein in general practice: assessment of clinical, organizational, and economic outcomes.

BACKGROUND: The benefits of near-patient, point-of-care tests have not been fully examined. We have assessed the clinical, organizational, and economic outcomes of implementing a near-patient test for C-reactive protein (CRP) in general practice. METHODS: In a randomized crossover trial during intervention periods, general practitioners (GPs) were allowed to measure CRP within 3 min, using NycoCard(R) CRP. During control periods, they had to mail blood samples for CRP measurements to the hospital laboratory and received test results 24-48 h later. Twenty-nine general practice clinics participated (64 GPs), and 1853 patients were included in the study. Results were evaluated at both the level of participating GPs and the level of included patients. RESULTS: For participating GPs, the overall use of erythrocyte sedimentation rates (ESRs) decreased by 8% (95% confidence interval, 1-14%) during intervention periods, and the number of blood samples mailed to the hospital laboratory decreased by 6% (1-10%). No reduction in the prescription of antibiotics was seen. The proportion of study patients having a follow-up telephone consultation was reduced from 63% to 53% (P = 0. 0001), and patients with CRP concentrations >50 mg/L had their antibiotic treatments started earlier when CRP was measured in general practices (P = 0.0161). CONCLUSION: The implementation of the near-patient CRP test was cost-effective mainly on the basis of a reduction in the use of services from the hospital laboratory by GPs. If the implementation is followed by education and clinical guidelines, opportunities exist for additional reduction in the use of ESR and for a more appropriate use of antibiotics.  (+info)