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Rural Residence and Prescription Medication Use by Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Review of the Literature


  • This project was supported by a New Emerging Team (NET) grant funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aging and the Rural and Northern Health Research Initiative (HAS-63179). The authors wish to acknowledge the technical assistance of Audrey Blandford, Research Coordinator, Centre on Aging, with the database searches as well as the supervision and coordination of the retrieval of articles. In addition, the contributions of student research assistants Kim Taylor, Kelly Sokolowski, and Sarah Malahais are gratefully acknowledged. For further information, contact: Ruby Grymonpre, BScPharm, PharmD, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Manitoba, 50 Sifton Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2; e-mail


ABSTRACT: Context: Due to various barriers to health care access in the rural setting, there is concern that rural older adults might have lower access to prescribed medications than their urban counterparts. Purpose: To review published research reports to determine prevalence and mean medication use in rural, noninstitutionalized older adults and assess whether rural–urban differences exist. Methods: PubMed, Ageline, Cinahl, PsycInfo, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, Agricola, and Institute for Scientific Information Web of Science – Social Science Index were searched. English-language articles through May 2005 involving a sample of rural, noninstitutionalized older adults and analyses of overall medication prevalence and/or intensity were included. Review articles, conference abstracts, dissertations, books, and articles targeting nonprescription or specific therapeutic categories were excluded. A total of 206 citations were identified and 26 met the inclusion criteria. Findings: Reported prevalence of prescription medication use by rural older adults varied between 62% and 96%, with 2-6 prescriptions per person. Multivariate analyses results were equally inconsistent. Controlling for insurance, most US studies suggest there is no rural–urban difference in access to prescribed medications. However, this finding may not be generalizable across all regions in the United States or other countries. Conclusions: Geographic location may not be as important a variable for medication usage as for other health services utilization.

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