European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

, Volume 58, Issue 12, pp 821–827 | Cite as

Awareness of the side effects of possessed medications in a community setting

  • Panagiotis N. Papanikolaou
  • John P. A. Ioannidis
Pharmacokinetics and Disposition




To evaluate in a community setting the extent of and parameters related with awareness of side effects of medications by health consumers.


We performed in-house interviews in an entire community. The population of the community of Chalki, Greece, was surveyed. Detailed information was recorded on all medications possessed by each individual. The main outcome measure was awareness of medication side effects.


A total of 1079 medications were recorded among 279 subjects. Among 180 subjects for whom direct information was available, and who possessed at least one medication only 47 (26%) were aware of the side effects of at least one of their medications. Side effects awareness was more frequent in subjects who had experienced some adverse event themselves (76%), in those with completed university education (67%), ex-smokers (46%), housewives (45%), and never married adults (41%) and was less frequent in more permanent island residents (odds ratio 0.76 per 10% of lifetime spent in the island) and economic immigrants (0%). Side effects awareness existed for only 8% of the possessed medications and was more frequent when an adverse event had been experienced (54%), for medications not provided locally initially (28%), and for medications for joint and musculoskeletal problems (15%). Awareness rates were unrelated to availability of prescription, specialist involvement, or follow-up by a physician concerning the specific medication.


Awareness of side effects was infrequent in this community setting and was determined mostly by live experiences of adverse events and social parameters. There is a need to improve the dissemination of adequate safety information among consumers in the ambulatory use of pharmaceuticals.


Side effects Medications Community Awareness Safety 



We are thankful to Prof. Haralampos M. Moutsopoulos, former President of the Hellenic Organization for Medicines, for his encouragement and insightful comments on the manuscript. We also thank the Municipality of Chalki and Dr. Georgia Christidi for offering valuable help in organizing the survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Panagiotis N. Papanikolaou
    • 1
  • John P. A. Ioannidis
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Clinical Trials and Evidence-Based Medicine Unit, Department of Hygiene and EpidemiologyUniversity of Ioannina School of MedicineIoanninaGreece
  2. 2.Division of Clinical Care Research, Tufts–New England Medical CenterTufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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