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People share medicines and problems can result from this behavior. Successful interventions to change sharing behavior will require understanding people’s motives and purposes for sharing medicines. Better information about how medicines fit into the gifting and reciprocity system could be useful in designing interventions to modify medicine sharing behavior. However, it is uncertain how people situate medicines among other items that might be shared. This investigation is a descriptive study of how people sort medicines and other shareable items.

Methods and Findings:

This study in the Dominican Republic examined how a convenience sample (31 people) sorted medicines and rated their shareability in relation to other common household items. We used non-metric multidimensional scaling to produce association maps in which the distances between items offer a visual representation of the collective opinion of the participants regarding the relationships among the items. In addition, from a pile sort constrained by four categories of whether sharing or loaning the item was acceptable (on a scale from not shareable to very shareable), we assessed the degree to which the participants rated the medicines as shareable compared to other items. Participants consistently grouped medicines together in all pile sort activities; yet, medicines were mixed with other items when rated by their candidacy to be shared. Compared to the other items, participants had more variability of opinion as to whether medicines should be shared.


People think of medicines as a distinct group, suggesting that interventions might be designed to apply to medicines as a group. People’s differing opinions as to whether it was appropriate to share medicines imply a degree of uncertainty or ambiguity that health promotion interventions might exploit to alter attitudes and behaviors. These findings have implications for the design of health promotion interventions to impact medicine sharing behavior.