Two hundred and sixty one patients attending a geriatric service were asked to give details of their usual medications without reference to drug bottles or written lists. Recall was tested in 4 categories: name of drugs, drug dosage, frequency of administration, and reason for the drug being prescribed. Drug recall was poor in all 4 categories, but particularly in respect of drug naming where only 10% of patients were able to give a complete list of their drugs. Out-patients were more knowledgeable about their medications than day hospital patients or inpatients. The rate of errors and omissions was correlated with increasing age, decreasing mental score, and to a lesser extent, number of drugs prescribed. Sixty-four percent of patients administered their own medications at home, and their ability to recall their medications was superior to that of other patients. The implications of the above findings are discussed.
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