Drugs & Aging

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 123–131

Epidemiology of Over-the-Counter Drug Use in Community Dwelling Elderly

United States Perspective
  • Joseph T. Hanlon
  • Gerda G. Fillenbaum
  • Christine M. Ruby
  • Shelly Gray
  • Arline Bohannon
Review Article


Among US community dwelling individuals aged ≥65 years, about as many persons take nonprescription drugs as take prescription drugs. A review of US data from the last 2 decades indicates that the average number of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs taken daily is around 1.8, but varies with geographical area (highest in the Midwest) and race/ethnicity (lowest use among Hispanics, followed by African Americans, and highest use among Whites). Use has consistently been found to be higher in women than in men. While OTC use appears to be increasing over time, it also decreases with increase in age. The most common OTC classes used are analgesics, laxatives and nutritional supplements. Our ability to explain or to predict OTC use and change in use is poor, and further studies, particularly on use by elderly individuals of minority races, are needed.


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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph T. Hanlon
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gerda G. Fillenbaum
    • 4
    • 5
  • Christine M. Ruby
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Shelly Gray
    • 8
  • Arline Bohannon
    • 9
  1. 1.College of Pharmacy, Institute for the Study of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy and Department of Experimental and Clinical PharmacologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.School of Public Health, Division of Health Services Research and PolicyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical CenterVeterans Affairs Medical CenterMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.Center for the Study of Aging and Human DevelopmentDurhamUSA
  5. 5.Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, and Medicine, Division of GeriatricsDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  6. 6.Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical CenterVeterans Affairs Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  7. 7.School of PharmacyUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  8. 8.School of PharmacyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  9. 9.Pharmaceutical BranchProctor and GambleMasonUSA
  10. 10.College of Pharmacy, 7-115 Weaver-Densford HallUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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