Some prescribers may need to brush up on their knowledge of drug-drug relationships. A study found that nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians incorrectly identified more than 50% of drug pairs with potentially dangerous interactions (Drug Saf. 2008;31:525-536).

Daniel Malone, PhD, a professor at The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, in Tucson, and colleagues mailed a questionnaire to 12,500 U.S. prescribers who were known to prescribe drugs with a potential for drug-drug interaction. The participants were instructed to classify 14 drug pairs as belonging to one of the following categories: “Contraindicated,” “May be used together but with monitoring,” “No interaction,” or “Not sure.”

The 950 respondents correctly classified 42.7% of the drug combinations. A majority of respondents identified only one pair as contraindicated, even though there were four such duos. More than a third of the prescribers said they were unsure about seven of the drug pairs; two of the seven were actually contraindicated.

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Approximately two-thirds of the prescribers reported that they usually got information on potential drug-drug interactions from pharmacists.

Dr. Malone noted, “The study found a very low rate of rec- ognition of these particular in- teractions, and some of these interactions are very common.” He also asserted that the findings indicate that programs to educate health professionals are not doing enough to teach students about potential drug-drug interactions.

A summary of this study, published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is available online at /research/may09/0509RA4.htm (accessed August 11, 2009).