Safeguarding Older Adults From Inappropriate Over-The-Counter Medications: The Role of Community Pharmacists

December 1, 2014

Purpose of the Study

To elicit the thought process or mental model that community pharmacists use when making recommendations on over-the-counter (OTC) medications to older adults and to elicit the current practices of community pharmacists in providing information, advice, and counseling to older adults about potentially inappropriate OTC medications.

Design and Methods

Three separate focus groups with pharmacists were conducted with 5 to 8 pharmacists per group. A vignette about an elderly woman seeking an OTC sleep aid was used to elicit information that pharmacists seek to establish when making a recommendation. Focus groups were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed for themes using the initial and focused coding methods of grounded theory.


Community pharmacists’ mental models were characterized by 2 similarities: a similarity in what community pharmacists seek to establish about patients and a similarity in when community pharmacists seek to establish it–the sequence in which they try to learn key details about patients. It was identified that pharmacists gather specific information about the patient’s medication profile, health conditions, characteristics of the problem, and past treatments in order to make a recommendation. Community pharmacists recommended behavioral modifications and seeing their physician prior to recommending an OTC sleep aid, primarily due to medication safety concerns.


Pharmacists can play a key role in assisting older adults to select and use OTC medications.

Cited by

This article is cited by 13 publications

  1. Chui, M. A., Berbakov, M. E., Gilson, A. M., Morris, A. O., & Stone, J. A. (2022). Effectiveness and sustainment of a tailored over-the-counter medication safety intervention in community pharmacies: A randomized controlled trial. Research in social & administrative pharmacy : RSAP, 18(11), 3953–3963.
  2. Beck, A., Persaud, N., Tessier, L. A., Grad, R., Kidd, M. R., Klarenbach, S., Korownyk, C., Moore, A., Thombs, B. D., Mangin, D., McCracken, R. K., McDonald, E. G., Sirois, C., Kanji, S., Molnar, F., Nicholls, S. G., Thavorn, K., Bennett, A., Shaver, N., Skidmore, B., … Moher, D. (2022). Interventions to address potentially inappropriate prescriptions and over-the-counter medication use among adults 65 years and older in primary care settings: protocol for a systematic review. Systematic reviews, 11(1), 225.
  3. Rasiah, J., Prorok, J. C., Adekpedjou, R., Barrie, C., Basualdo, C., Burns, R., De Paul, V., Donnelly, C., Doyle, A., Frank, C., Dolsen, S. G., Giguère, A., Hsiung, S., Kim, P., McDonald, E. G., O'Grady, H., Patey, A., Puxty, J., Racey, M., Resin, J., … Muscedere, J. (2022). Enabling Healthy Aging to AVOID Frailty in Community Dwelling Older Canadians. Canadian geriatrics journal : CGJ, 25(2), 202–211.
  4. Alhwimani, A. K., Aljohani, R. A., & Altulaihi, B. A. (2021). The Use of Over-the-Counter Sleep Aid Containing Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride Among Saudis. Cureus, 13(12), e20622.
  5. Gilson, A. M., Xiong, K. Z., Stone, J. A., Jacobson, N., & Chui, M. A. (2021). A pharmacy-based intervention to improve safe over-the-counter medication use in older adults. Research in social & administrative pharmacy : RSAP, 17(3), 578–587.