A pharmacy-based intervention to improve safe over-the-counter medication use in older adults

Res Social Adm Pharm. 2021 Mar;17(3):578-587. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2020.05.008. Epub 2020 May 13.


Background: For older adults, health risks from inappropriate use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications represent a prevalent clinical and public health challenge. Focus groups with pharmacists led to the identification of a number of systems barriers to pharmacists supporting the safe selection and use of OTC medications by this population. Such feedback informed the development of the Senior Section™, a physical redesign that located a curated inventory of lower-risk OTC medications proximal to the prescription department.

Objectives: To determine whether implementation of the Senior Section resulted in improvements to the ability of pharmacy staff to engage with older adult patients to support OTC medication safety issues.

Methods: A qualitative approach, in which pharmacy staff from 4 pharmacies within a single chain participated in a semi-structured interview, was used to evaluate the implementation of the Senior Section in their pharmacies. Interview transcripts underwent a deductive and iterative content analysis.

Results: Eight pharmacists and 5 technicians were interviewed. They viewed the Senior Section as contributing to notable improvements in proximity, medication safety, convenience, and patient selection behaviors. The Senior Section's safer OTC inventory and its sectional layout, its relationship to the prescription department, and its signage served to enhance its usefulness as an OTC safety improvement intervention. Moreover, it functioned beneficially while streamlining the coordination of services with between pharmacists and technicians, and did not interfere with existing pharmacy workflows.

Conclusions: Pharmacy staff believed that the Senior Section facilitated their ability to engage with older adults to support safe OTC selection and use and thus to reduce OTC-related harms.

Keywords: Medication safety; Pharmacist-patient communication; System redesign.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Community Pharmacy Services*
  • Humans
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Pharmacies*
  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacy*


  • Nonprescription Drugs