Does the "script" need a rewrite? Is medication advice in television medical dramas appropriate?

Melissa Cowley, Mark Naunton, Jackson Thomas, Freya Waddington, Gregory M Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


WHAT IS KNOWN AND OBJECTIVE: Television medical dramas depict the healthcare industry and draw considerable interest from the public, while pharmacists play an integral part in providing medication-related advice to the public and other health practitioners in real life. The main objective of this retrospective, observational study was to assess the appropriateness of medication advice given in televised medical dramas and how frequently pharmacists were involved in providing the medication advice.

METHODS: Show selection was based on fictional series with a medical drama theme and having the highest viewership. Approximately 100 randomly selected hours of five medical television dramas (House, Grey's Anatomy, Nurse Jackie, Doc Martin and Royal Pains) were assessed for the appropriateness of advice given based on the medication indicated, number of safety checks performed, and the level of adherence to standard clinical guidelines. The appropriateness of medication advice was assessed as appropriate, mostly appropriate, partially appropriate and inappropriate using a piloted, 0-6 point scale. Other parameters recorded included patient demographics, health professionals involved, and the categories of medicines.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS: Medications were mentioned on 424 occasions (on average four times per hour), including 239 occasions where medication advice was given. A pharmacist was involved in giving medication advice only 16 times (7%). Using the assessment tool, overall, medication advice was deemed to be appropriate 24% of the time, mostly appropriate 34%, partially appropriate 13% and inappropriate 7%. Although the medication advice given was often for the correct indication and the advice somewhat followed clinical guidelines, it frequently omitted adequate safety checks. Doc Martin had the highest mean appropriateness score, whereas House and Grey's Anatomy had the lowest.

WHAT IS NEW AND CONCLUSIONS: Medication was often used for the correct indication in television medical dramas; however, key safety checks were frequently omitted and other medication-related advice, including dose, was less reliable and accurate. Pharmacists were rarely involved in providing medication advice. Viewers should not base medication-related decisions solely on what they see in television medical dramas, and any medication-related advice should be interpreted with extreme caution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-773
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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