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Many patients ignore the risk of mixing alcohol with prescriptions, said Cynthia Kuhn of Duke University Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.
"They think, 'Oh, one drink won't hurt.' Then they have three or four," Kuhn said.
The increase in deaths was highest among baby boomers, people in their 40s and 50s.
"We're sort of drug happy," said boomer Dr. J. Lyle Bootman, the University of Arizona's pharmacy dean, who was not involved in the research. "We have this general attitude that drugs can fix everything."
People share prescriptions at an alarming rate, Bootman said. One recent study found 23 percent of people say they have loaned their prescription medicine to someone else and 27 percent say they have borrowed someone else's prescription drugs.
Kenneth Kolosh, a statistics expert at the National Safety Council, praised the study but said improved attention to coding location on death certificates may account, in part, for the huge increases the researchers found.
Phillips countered that home deaths from any cause increased relatively little during the time period, so better coding doesn't explain the change.
Michael R. Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said more states should require pharmacists to teach patients about dangerous drugs and insurers should pay pharmacists to do so.
On the Net:
Archives of Internal Medicine: http://www.archinternmed.com/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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