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Home > Research Articles > Many Elderly Lack Info About Their Prescribed Meds

Reuters Health

Sunday, June 2, 2002

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Although some elderly individuals may take as many as six or more prescription medications per day, many of them do not know the names of all of the drugs or why they are taking them, new study findings show. "Elderly patients often do not know what medications they are taking, their dosages, or indications," Dr. Joel M. Bartfield of Albany Medical College in New York told Reuters Health. He and his co-author, Dr. Michael K. Chung, studied 88 emergency room patients over the age of 65 to assess their knowledge about their prescription medications. Altogether, the patients reported taking 458 prescription medications, or about six each, the investigators report in the June issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine. Only 15% of the seniors, however, were able to correctly report the names of their prescription medications, the dosages, how frequently they should take the medications, and why they were taking the various medications, study findings indicate. Forty percent of the patients correctly identified all of their medications, but their ability to do so was reportedly influenced by the number of medications they were taking. For example, 78% of those who took three or fewer medications were able to correctly identify all of the drugs, whereas only 15% of those who took more than six medications were able to name all of their drugs correctly, the report indicates. And these findings remained true regardless of the patient's age, Bartfield and Chung note. Further, only about one third of the seniors knew the correct dosages of their medications and 57% knew how frequently they should take the drugs. What's more, only 63% of the patients knew which particular medications they took to treat specific symptoms. In addition, 3 out of every 10 patients said they wanted more information about their medications, the report indicates. "People are living longer and are on more and more complex medical regimens," Bartfield said. "It is the responsibility of all of us in the healthcare profession to provide as much patient education as we can, particularly to the elderly. "Furthermore, we should keep our medication regimens and other treatments as simple as possible in order to maximize patient understanding," the researcher added. SOURCE: Annals of Emergency Medicine 2002;39:605-608.