Medicines management at home during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study exploring the UK patient/carer perspective

Int J Pharm Pract. 2021 Oct 18;29(5):458-464. doi: 10.1093/ijpp/riab050.


Objectives: To explore home medicine practices and safety for people shielding and/or over the age of 70 during the COVID-19 pandemic and to create guidance, from the patient/carer perspective, for enabling safe medicine practices for this population.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 50 UK participants who were shielding and/or over the age of 70 and who used medicines for a long-term condition, using telephone or video conferencing. Participants were recruited through personal/professional networks and through patient/carer organisations. Participants were asked about their experiences of managing medicines during the pandemic and how this differed from previous practices. Data were analysed using inductive thematic analysis.

Key findings: Patients' and their families' experiences of managing medicines safely during the pandemic varied greatly. Analysis suggests that this was based on the patient's own agency, the functioning of their medicines system pre-pandemic and their relationships with family, friends, community networks and pharmacy staff. Medicine safety issues reported included omitted doses and less-effective formulations being used. Participants also described experiencing high levels of anxiety related to obtaining medicines, monitoring medicines and feeling at risk of contracting COVID-19 while accessing healthcare services for medicine-related issues. Effects of the pandemic on medicines adherence were reported to be positive by some and negative by others.

Conclusions: Pharmacy staff have a key role to play by establishing good relationships with patients and their families, working with prescribers to ensure medicines systems are as joined up as possible, and signposting to community networks that can help with medicines collection.

Keywords: COVID-19; elderly; medicines; pandemic; shielding.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Community Pharmacy Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Pandemics*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Public Health
  • Qualitative Research
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Safety
  • United Kingdom