Older adults should consult pharmacists on OTC sleep medications, researchers say

Out of 116 older adults, only 16% consulted a healthcare professional about their sleep aid and most would not think to consult a pharmacist, interviews reveal.

Man with insomnia in bed

Sleep problems are common among older adults but little is known about the use of over-the counter (OTC) sleep aids in this population.

To explore, a team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in Pennsylvania carried out interviews with 116 people aged 60 years or above who had previously reported using OTC sleep aids.

The outcomes of the interviews, published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice[1]
(online, 6 March 2017), showed that 36% of people selected their sleep aid themselves and only 16% consulted a healthcare professional.

Most respondents had not spoken to a pharmacist about their OTC sleep-aid use, with some saying they preferred to consult a physician and would not think to consult a pharmacist.

The researchers say that because community pharmacists are ideally placed to counsel patients on OTC sleep aid use, interventions to increase patient-pharmacist engagement could help improve appropriate sleep aid selection and patient safety.


[1] Abraham O, Schleiden LJ, Brothers AL et al. Managing sleep problems using non-prescription medications and the role of community pharmacists: older adults’ perspectives. Int J Pharm Pract 2017; doi: 10.1111/ijpp.12334

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, May 2017, Vol 9, No 5;9(5):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202530

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