In a recent publication in Cureus that explored the use of OTC medications among older patients, researchers discovered that the majority of elderly patients use OTC medications due to their previous experience with that medication, convenience, affordability, a lack of seriousness regarding the consequences of using OTC medications, and recommendations from family members, friends, or neighbors.

The authors wrote, “The aging population is increasingly using self-medication due to comorbidities. Most people who self-medicate use OTC medications bought from private pharmacies as their primary source of medicine. The use of self-medication may lead to an increased risk of unfavorable health outcomes. People aged over 65 [years] are more vulnerable to adverse drug reactions (ADRs).”

In this study, researchers conducted a systematic literature review and sought to understand the factors that influence the use of OTC medications among the older patient population.

The primary objective of the review was to ascertain the motives for self-medication among the elderly, followed by recognizing the knowledge source of medications, awareness regarding potential health risks associated with self-medication overdoses, and the medicines that are most frequently used for self-medication in this patient population.

According to inclusion and exclusion criteria, 37 papers were eventually included in this review’s synthesis of the evidence. The results revealed that the primary uses of OTC medications among the elderly population were for treating abdominal pain, headache, cough, joint pain, and fever. The most commonly utilized drug class for self-medication was analgesics for treating headaches. Factors identified that influenced OTC medication use included previous use of OTC medication, easy accessibility, lower costs, recommendations from others, information from online sources, saving time, not wanting to go to doctor or clinics, urgency to get relief of symptoms, and lack of awareness about disease severity.

The authors highlighted the instrumental role of pharmacists in educating patients about the proper use of OTC drugs and in encouraging elderly patients to discuss the use of OTC drugs with their primary healthcare provider before using these medicines to ascertain appropriateness.

Based on their findings, the authors wrote, “In today’s scenario, most people know about the risks associated with self-medication. However, people continue to participate in this risky self-medication behavior to get quick relief from a mild illness. The older population often and heavily uses self-medication. This is concerning since seniors are more likely to experience negative medication responses than younger people.”

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