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Use of Medicines by Community Dwelling Elderly in Ontario


  • Peri J. Ballantyne
  • Joan A. Marshman
  • Philippa J. Clarke
  • J. Charles Victor


OBJECTIVE: Prescription medicine use by the elderly is of growing concern as indicated by a large literature focused on rising costs, patient compliance and the appropriateness of use. However, prescriptions account for only a portion of medicines used by the elderly, who have increasing access to non-prescription medicines and natural health products. The objective of this paper is to describe overall medicine use among the elderly in Ontario. METHODS: Using the National Population Health Survey (1996/97), we describe self-reported use of prescription, non-prescription and alternative medicines among elderly Ontarians aged 65+, and we compare use among four age sub-groups and by gender. Analysis is focused on the prevalence of, and the relative balance of use of different types of medicines. RESULTS: About one quarter of the respondents reported using no prescription or non-prescription medicines in the two days prior to being surveyed; a large majority reported using two or fewer medicines only, and use of non- prescription medicines was reported more often than prescription medicines (56% vs 48%). Use of natural health products by seniors is relatively low, but we observe a trend toward increased use in younger age groups. DISCUSSION: The findings place the consumption of prescription medicines by the elderly into a broader context that reveals that much of medicine use by the elderly involves non-prescribed products. We highlight the need to better understand seniors' decision-making regarding the different types of medicines available, and the financial costs and health risks of the medicine regimes of elderly persons.

Suggested Citation

  • Peri J. Ballantyne & Joan A. Marshman & Philippa J. Clarke & J. Charles Victor, 2003. "Use of Medicines by Community Dwelling Elderly in Ontario," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 103, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:103

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    elderly; medicine-use; prescription medicines; over-the-counter medicines; natural health products; NPHS;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination

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