Self-medication with over-the-counter drugs and complementary medications in South Australias elderly populationReport as inadecuate

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine

, 9:42

First Online: 11 November 2009Received: 30 June 2009Accepted: 11 November 2009


BackgroundA number of surveys have examined use of complementary and alternative medicines CAM in Australia. However, there are limited Australian data on use of CAM and over-the-counter OTC medicines in the elderly population. The main aims of this study were to examine self-medication practices with CAM and OTC medicines among older Australians and variables associated with their use.

MethodsThe Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing ALSA is an ongoing multidisciplinary prospective study of the older population which commenced in 1992 in South Australia. Data collected in 4 waves of ALSA between 1992 and 2004 were used in this study with a baseline sample of 2087 adults aged 65 years and over, living in the community or residential aged care. OTC medicines were classified according to the World Health Organization Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical ATC classification. CAM were classified according a modified version of the classification adopted by the Therapeutics Goods Administration TGA in Australia.

ResultsThe prevalence of CAM or OTC use ranged from 17.7% in 2000-2001 to 35.5% in 2003-2004. The top classes of CAM and OTC medicines used remained relatively constant over the study period. The most frequent classes of CAM used were vitamins and minerals, herbal medicines and nutritional supplements while the most commonly used OTC were analgesics, laxatives and low dose aspirin. Females and those of younger age were more likely to be CAM users but no variable was associated with OTC use.

ConclusionParticipants seemed to self-medicate in accordance with approved indications, suggesting they were informed consumers, actively looking after their own health. However, use of analgesics and aspirin are associated with an increased risk of adverse drug events in the elderly. Future work should examine how self-medication contributes to polypharmacy and increases the risk of adverse drug reactions.

List of abbreviationsABS Australian Bureau of Statistics

AIHW Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

LSA Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing

ASMI Australian Self-Medication Industry

ATC Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical

CAM Complementary and Alternative Medicines

FDA US Food and Drug Administration

HADS Herbal and Dietary Supplements

HIC Health Insurance Commission

NPS National Prescribing Service

NSAIDs Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

OTC Over-The-Counter

TGA Therapeutic Goods Administration.

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Author: Lynn Yeen Goh - Agnes I Vitry - Susan J Semple - Adrian Esterman - Mary A Luszcz


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