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Gerontologist. 2014 Dec;54(6):909-18. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu034. Epub 2014 May 20.

Promoting safe and effective use of OTC medications: CHPA-GSA National Summit.

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Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
School of Packaging, Michigan State University, Lansing.
Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick.
Stanford Center on Longevity, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.
School of Nursing and Center for Health Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut, Hartford.
General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.


Research on the ways older people use prescription medications (Rx) is a mainstay of the gerontological literature because use of Rx medications is common, and appropriate use is central to effective management of chronic disease. But older adults are also major consumers of over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which can be equally significant for self-care. Nearly half of older adults aged 75-85, for example, are regular users of an OTC product. Ensuring that consumers safely and effectively use OTC products is critical in order to minimize potential drug-drug interactions and unintentional misuse. Yet we know surprisingly little about the ways older adults select OTC medications and decide when to start or stop use, how older people actually take these medications, or how involved clinicians and family members are in older adult OTC behavior. Research in this area is critical for developing interventions to help ensure safe and appropriate OTC use. For this reason, The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), in partnership with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), convened a summit of experts to set an agenda for research in OTC behaviors among older adults. The panel suggested a need for research in 5 key areas: Health literacy and OTC behavior, decision making and OTC use, the role of clinicians in OTC medication behavior, older adult OTC behavior and family care, and technologies to promote optimal use of OTC medications.


Care; Medications; OTC drugs; Pharmacology; Physician–patient communication; Prescriptions; Preventive medicine; Psychiatry; Psychology of aging; Public policy; Relationships; Services

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