Background: Consumers have questions about their medication but the nature of these concerns and how they reflect medication use is unknown.
Objectives: To determine the characteristics and medicines interests of callers to an Australian medicines call center and whether the medicines interest of callers corresponds with medicines utilization.
Methods: Data from consumers who contacted a national medicines call center between September 2002 and June 2010 were analyzed. Patterns of consumer medicines interest were described. Medicines were class-matched by Anatomical Therapeutic Classification, and compared with dispensed use (January 2006–June 2010).
Results: In total 125,951 calls were received between 2002 and 2010. Callers were mainly female (76.8%), median age 48 years, calling for themselves (71.7%). Motivation to call related to safety (34.7%), efficacy (24.1%) and interactions (14.9%). For the comparison with medicines utilization, 85,416 calls with 124,177 individual medicine counts were analyzed (2006 and 2010). There were 976 unique ‘medicines of interest’. Half (49.4%) of these questions involved just fifty unique medicines. Nervous system medicines (antiepileptics, psycholeptics, analgesics) and antibacterials consistently ranked highest for interest compared with use. Conversely, agents acting on the renin-angiotensin system, statins and drugs for acid related disorders ranked low for interest despite widespread use.
Conclusions: Consumer questions about medicines correlate poorly with overall medicines utilization. To promote quality health outcomes, clinicians should target their education to the relatively small number of medicines of real concern to patients.