Prescribing medications to older drivers: Are physician resources adequate?

Kathleen Tschantz Unroe, Bonnie Kantor, Virginia Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Primary care physicians are asked by older patients, family members, and licensing authorities to make recommendations regarding the driving ability of older patients. The implications for the older patient are substantial, as safety, mobility, and quality of life will be affected by such decisions. Considering these obligations of clinicians treating older adults, many relevant questions are raised: Is the information that is known about the effects of prescription medications on driving readily available to medical professionals? Do physicians have adequate tools to advise their patients and family members about this issue? These questions were examined by looking at drug entries in the PDR, Drug Facts and Comparisons and the USP-DI for several medications taken by patients who participated in an Older Drivers Evaluation Program at The Ohio State University. Three classes of medications were chosen for examination: benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and opioids. The content and variety of warnings were examined in each of these three reference manuals. The PDR contained the most detailed warnings for almost every specific drug examined. Facts and Comparisons and the USP-DI, because of their different format, discussed the specific warnings in the entry introducing the entire drug category. The language of the warnings differed among the entries. The entries of the drugs that were examined did, with the notable exception of opioids in the USP DI, mention driving. This is as expected, as research has raised concerns about the use of these categories of medications and driving. The warnings could be clearer and more consistent, however, to give the physician more guidance. Physicians have an ethical and legal duty of care to their patients that can only be fulfilled if they have the appropriate resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-54
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Aging and Pharmacotherapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Central nervous system
  • Drug adverse effects
  • Drug therapy
  • Impaired status
  • Motor vehicles
  • Opioids
  • Prescribing information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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