Background The unintentional misuse of over-the-counter sleep aids among older adults is an important public health problem and a focus of Healthy People 2020. Accordingly, the 2015 Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults recommends that individuals 65 years or older avoid use of diphenhydramine and doxylamine; however, many over-the-counter sleep products contain these active ingredients. Objective To identify the proportion of older adults using an over-the-counter medication containing diphenhydramine or doxylamine, and compare their characteristics with older adults using an over-the-counter medication that does not contain these ingredients. Setting Study participants were recruited from the Community Registry of the Pittsburgh Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center. Method The study sample was taken from a larger survey of 1025 participants on sleep health and over-the-counter sleep medication use conducted from February to April 2015. A subset of 169 participants aged 65 and older reporting taking at least one over-the-counter product to improve sleep within the past 30 days (16.5%) were selected for our analysis on associations between participant characteristics and potentially inappropriate use of over-the-counter sleep medications. Main outcome measure The proportion and characteristics of older adults taking at least one over-the-counter medication containing diphenhydramine or doxylamine. Results Of the 223 over-the-counter sleep medications listed by participants, 115 (52%) contained diphenhydramine or doxylamine. Using the Beers Criteria, we found that more than half of participants (59%) had used a potentially inappropriate over-the-counter medication containing diphenhydramine or doxylamine to improve sleep within the past 30 days. Participants taking at least one diphenhydramine or doxylamine containing medication were less likely to be aware of any safety risks in taking over-the-counter sleep medications than participants not taking these products (38 vs 49%, p = 0.016). Conclusion A majority of older adults in a limited sample from the United States taking an over-the-counter medication to improve sleep are taking a product containing diphenhydramine or doxylamine, both of which are classified as potentially inappropriate for older adults. Awareness of the safety risks of over-the-counter medications and addressing conditions that impact sleep quality could be facilitated through consultation with pharmacists and other healthcare providers.
International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy – Springer Journals
Published: May 2, 2017
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