Background There is a lack of studies evaluating the factors which influence the perception of safety of over-the-counter (OTC) medications by elderly patients. Objective The aim of our questionnaire survey was to evaluate the perception of the risk of OTC medications by elderly patients and to identify patient-associated characteristics which determine elderly persons who consider OTC medications as safe. Setting 25 community pharmacies in different regions of the Slovak Republic. Methods A 54-items questionnaire was provided to patients aged ≥65 years who were purchasing at least one OTC medication during the period from May 2010 to November 2010. The questions elicited information on (a) self-assessment of health status; (b) basic characteristics of OTC medications use (e.g. frequency, duration); (c) patients’ knowledge on OTC medications; (d) participants’ perception of the risk of OTC medications; (e) the list of OTC and prescription-only medications taken; and (f) sociodemographic characteristics of respondents. Results Of the 793 questionnaires distributed, 519 were finally included in the statistical analysis (response rate of 65.4 %). Women were prevailing in the analysed group (n = 361; 69.6 %). The average age of participants was 72.2 ± 5.6 years. Majority (n = 392, 75.5 %) of the respondents considered OTC medications as safe. Multivariate analysis (binary logistic regression) revealed that elderly patients who considered OTC medications as safe were characterised by use of OTC medications every day (OR = 2.09), preferring a wide range of such drugs in pharmacies (OR = 2.86), considering such medications as effective (OR = 10.33), obtaining information on OTC drugs from pharmacists (OR = 1.91) and willingness to possibly purchase OTC medications outside pharmacies (OR = 3.35). On the other hand, allergic conditions as a reason for purchasing OTC medications (OR = 0.23), recommendation of a physician regarding the choice of OTC medications (OR = 0.51) and considering concurrent use of several medications as a factor increasing the risk of adverse drug reactions (OR = 0.62) emerged as important factors that decreased the probability of elderly patients considering OTC medications as safe. Conclusions The survey identified various factors that influenced the perceptions of the safety of OTC medications by the elderly and indicated that pharmacists represent the most trusted source of information about OTC medications.
Adverse drug reactionsElderly patientsOver-the-counter medicationsPerceptionRiskSlovakia