A pilot study of decision factors influencing over-the-counter medication selection and use by older adults


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Despite their availability without prescription, OTC medications pose a risk for significant harm for older adults due to higher likelihood of polypharmacy, drug interactions, and age-related physiological changes. The purpose of this study is to identify the individual decision factors that influence how older adults select and use over-the-counter medications.

METHODS: A pilot study was conducted with 20 community-dwelling older adults. Older adults met the interviewer at a regional mass merchandise store where they were given both pain and insomnia standardized scenarios. Participants described how they would select and then hypothetically use a given medication to treat the problem described in the scenario.

RESULTS: OTC medication selection and reported use were influenced by several person-level decision-making factors including: personal beliefs/knowledge about OTCs, assessment of the ailment, and medical constraints.

CONCLUSION: The findings from this investigation provide direction for interventions to address unsafe OTC medication selection by older adults.

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