European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

, Volume 75, Issue 2, pp 255–263 | Cite as

Do older adults know the purpose of their medications? A survey among community-dwelling people

  • Léa Hoisnard
  • Brigitte Santos-Eggimann
  • Pauline Chauvin
  • Anne Hiance-Delahaye
  • Marie HerrEmail author
Pharmacoepidemiology and Prescription



This study assessed the level of knowledge among community-dwelling older individuals about the purpose of medications and the characteristics that influenced that knowledge. We focused on drugs frequently used and/or often involved in iatrogenic events.


This cross-sectional survey included 2690 community-dwelling older adults, aged 68 years and above, who reported using at least one drug of interest, in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. Participants reported drugs that they currently used and described their purpose. A good knowledge level was defined as knowledge of the exact purpose or identification of the anatomical system or organ targeted by the drug. We performed a multivariate logistic regression analysis to identify factors associated with a good knowledge level for all drugs of interest. Sampling weights were employed to provide representative estimates.


On average, patients had good knowledge of 80.6% of the drugs reported. The highest knowledge levels were demonstrated for non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, antidiabetics, analgesics, and endocrinological drugs and the lowest for platelet aggregation inhibitors, minerals, anticoagulants, and other narrow therapeutic index drugs. Overall, 66% of participants had good knowledge of the purpose of all the drugs of interest. Polypharmacy and receiving help with drug management were negatively associated with good knowledge (adjusted OR4–5 drugs 0.45; 95% CI 0.29–0.71, adjusted OR≥ 6 drugs 0.20; 95% CI 0.13–0.31, and adjusted ORhelp 0.42; 95% CI 0.18–0.99).


This study showed that education about drugs was lacking among patients that received multiple drugs, particularly patients that used anticoagulants and antiplatelet inhibitors.


Drugs Knowledge Old people Primary care Therapeutic education 


Author contributions

LH: analysis and interpretation, drafting the article.

BSE: study conception and design, interpretation, critical revision, final approval.

MH: study conception and design, interpretation, critical revision, final approval.

PC and AHD: interpretation, critical revision, final approval.

Sponsor’s role: the funding bodies did not contribute or influence the study design or findings.

Financial disclosure

The 2012 survey was funded by the Canton of Vaud Department of Public Health. Since 2004, the Lc65+ project was funded by the University of Lausanne Hospital; the Canton of Vaud Department of Public Health; the University of Lausanne Faculty of Biology and Medicine; the Loterie Romande (non-profit organization supporting research and social projects); the Fondation Médecine Sociale et Préventive, Lausanne; and the City of Lausanne.

Compliance with ethical standards

Informed consent was obtained from all individuals included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

228_2018_2575_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary Table S1 (DOCX 15 kb)
228_2018_2575_MOESM2_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary Table S2 (DOCX 20 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Léa Hoisnard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Brigitte Santos-Eggimann
    • 3
  • Pauline Chauvin
    • 4
  • Anne Hiance-Delahaye
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Marie Herr
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.INSERM, U1168, VIMA: Aging and Chronic Diseases, Epidemiological and Public Health ApproachesVillejuifFrance
  2. 2.Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, UMR-S 1168Montigny le BretonneuxFrance
  3. 3.Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP)Lausanne University HospitalLausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.LIRAES (EA4470)Université Paris DescartesParisFrance
  5. 5.Service des consultations externesHôpitaux Universitaires Paris Ile-de-France Ouest, site Sainte Périne, AP-HPParisFrance
  6. 6.Département Hospitalier d’Epidémiologie et de Santé PubliqueHôpitaux Universitaires Paris Ile-de-France Ouest, site Sainte Périne, AP-HPParisFrance

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