Michelle Nguyen (PharmD Candidate 2023) and Shelly Gray presented a poster (co-authored by Abby Winter, Assistant Director for Outreach for the Plein Center) at the ASCP Annual Meeting entitled “Understanding Older Peoples’ Knowledge, Perceptions, and Self-Motivated Health Behaviors Regarding Use of OTC Anticholinergic Medications: A Focus on Assisted Living Community Residents.”
Older adults make up a large proportion of over-the-counter (OTC) product consumers in the U.S. and this is expected to increase as the population continues to age. A variety of OTC medications, ranging from sleep aids and allergy relievers to combination cough and cold products, may contain medications known to produce anticholinergic side effects (e.g. diphenhydramine). Although these OTCs are easily accessible for the treatment of common ailments, they often come with important age-related safety risks. Improper use can increase the risk of unwanted side effects, falls, and even hospitalizations.
To learn more about the use of these medications in older adults, the team created a survey asking residents about different aspects of OTC anticholinergics medications including awareness or knowledge of well-established side effects or safety risks. Nguyen and Winter visited six Era Living retirement communities in the Seattle area, where Michelle presented on safe OTC medication use to encourage participation in the survey.
While all residents who completed the survey “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with statements assessing their knowledge about medication use (such as knowing when to expect symptom relief and when to stop use), most residents were either “unsure” or thought it was “unlikely” that these medications could cause constipation or memory problems. Overall, residents surveyed identified various knowledge gaps which indicated that older adults may benefit from pharmacist education about the potential drug interactions, age-related safety risks, and side effects of OTC anticholinergic medications.