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What affects elderly patients’ ability to take drugs safely?
Cognitive function and socio­economic status affect the ability of elderly patients to take oral prescription drugs safely.
Pharm­acists specialised in geriatric practice and a geriatric social worker interviewed 57 elderly individuals selected from three retirement communities and a daycare centre, to evaluate how they took their prescribed medications according to dosage, indication, food or water coingestion, and regimen.

Most subjects managed their own drug therapy; 70% used reminder systems, such as a calendar or pillbox. Correct dosage was reported for 94% of the 325 prescribed agents, correct indication for 95%, correct coingestion with food or water 97%, and correct regimen for 89%. The most frequent problem was underdosing of cardiovascular drugs. Multiple regression analysis revealed that Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores and Medicaid assistance in the last
10 years were significant predictors of test scores. Education, depression and drug self-management were not significantly correlated with scores.

Although the test identified some adherence problems, follow-up evaluation by a pharmacist identified additional potentially significant problems in 20% of subjects.

Pharmacotherapy 2002;22(10):1239-48.

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