A Preliminary Examination of Over-The-Counter Medication Misuse Rates in Older Adults

January 18, 2016


Older adults are the largest consumers of over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Of the older adults who are at risk of a major adverse drug event, more than 50% of these events involve an OTC medication.


To explore how older adults select and hypothetically use OTC medications and if the selected medications would be considered safe for use.


Walking interviews were conducted with 20 community-dwelling older adults in a community pharmacy. Each participant selected an OTC medication for a hypothetical pain and sleep scenario. Data were analyzed for four types of misuse: drug-drug interaction, drug-disease interaction, drug-age interaction, and excess usage.


At least one instance of potential misuse was found in 95% of participants. For sleep medications, drug-drug interactions and drug-age interactions were more common, affecting 50% and 65% of participants respectively. The most common type of misuse noted in the pain products selected was that of drug-drug interaction, with a total of 39 occurrences, affecting 60% of the participants.


OTC misuse is common among older adults, and it is important for older adults to seek out resources, such as a pharmacist, to help them make safe OTC decisions.

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