Patients with more say in treatment have fewer side effects

Letting patients choose between different medications that offer the same outcomes may increase the effectiveness of the preferred drug and reduce possible side effects, according to a new study published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The study included 60 students between the age of 18 and 30 years old at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Researchers briefed the participants on two different formulations of fast acting beta-blockers used to reduce stress. They then allowed participants to write down which drug they would prefer to take, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Half of the participants received their chosen drug, while the other half were randomly assigned one of the two drugs. The study participants were then asked to perform three cognitive tests designed to simulate exam stress.

After the test, the group that got its drug of choice reported an average of 3.5 drug-related side effects. The no-choice group reported 3.8 side effects. After 24 hours, the group that did not have a choice over which drug to take had an average of 3.9 side effects while the group that received their chosen drug reported 1.9 side effects.

Giving patients a say in drug treatment may cause them to focus on information that supports their decision or on sensations that demonstrate the drug is working. People who don't have the option to choose may become more skeptical about the drug they take or put a spotlight on the negative side effects, researchers said.

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