"I don't know how many of these [medicines] are necessary.." - a focus group study among elderly users of multiple medicines

Patient Educ Couns. 2009 Feb;74(2):135-41. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2008.08.019. Epub 2008 Oct 8.


Objective: The growing prevalence of multiple medicine use among elderly challenges health care. The aim was to conduct an exploratory study describing multiple medicine use from the elderly patient's perspective.

Methods: Twelve focus groups of 29 men and 30 women 65 years of age or older, using five or more medicines were analysed qualitatively.

Results: Initially the participants reported no problems with using multiple medicines; they felt fortunate that medicines existed and kept them alive. However, negative attitudes were also revealed, both similar to those presented in studies on lay experience of medicine-taking and some that appear more specific to users of multiple medicines. The foremost of these was that acceptance of medicines depends on not experiencing adverse effects and worrying whether multiple medicine use is 'good' for the body. Furthermore, participants' perception of their medicines depended on interaction with doctors, i.e. trusting 'good' doctors.

Conclusion: The participants revealed co-existing accounts of both immediate gratitude and problems with using multiple medicines. Furthermore, the patient-doctor relationship coloured their attitudes towards their medicines.

Practice implications: Importance of the patient-doctor relationship for treatment success is highlighted. Moreover, to be able to capture both accounts of the elderly in this study an appropriate consultation length is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged / psychology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Communication
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nonprescription Drugs / adverse effects
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Phytotherapy / adverse effects
  • Phytotherapy / psychology
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sweden
  • Trust


  • Nonprescription Drugs