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The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 60:217-223 (2005)
© 2005 The Gerontological Society of America

Validation of the Hopkins Medication Schedule To Identify Difficulties in Taking Medications

Michelle C. Carlson1,2,, Linda P. Fried1,3, Qian-Li Xue1,3, Carmen Tekwe1 and Jason Brandt4

1 Center on Aging and Health
2 Department of Mental Health, 3Department of Medicine
4 Department of Psychiatry, Division of Medical Psychology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.

Address correspondence to Michelle C. Carlson, PhD, Center on Aging and Health, The Johns Hopkins University, 2024 E. Monument Street, Suite 2-700, Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail: mcarlson{at}

Background. Medications often represent the first line of defense in preventing or delaying the progression of chronic diseases. The health implications of improper medication compliance, and failure to identify it, are considerable. The authors thus developed and validated the Hopkins Medication Schedule (HMS), a new objective test of one's ability to understand and implement a routine prescription medication.

Methods. The authors gave a hypothetical physician's prescription for two common medications (antibiotics and aspirin) to 360 high-functioning, community-dwelling, older participants in the Women's Health and Aging Study II and asked them to fill in a daily schedule for taking these medications and to fill in the compartments of a daily pillbox. These scored and timed performances were evaluated for their ability to predict concurrent and 3-year participant-reported difficulty in performing instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) and for their associations with memory and attention.

Results. Although fewer than 2% of participants reported difficulty in taking medications, nearly 22% were completely unable to complete the schedule, fill the pillbox, or both. The 7% of participants who reported difficulty in any IADL also performed poorly on the HMS. In addition, performance on the schedule and the pillbox predicted concurrent difficulty. In adjusted regression analyses, the schedule was most highly associated with memory and the pillbox with learning and executive function.

Conclusions. The HMS had concurrent validity for participant-reported IADL difficulty. Furthermore, in community-dwelling older women who largely reported no difficulty in taking medications, the HMS identified nearly 22% who could not write or implement a routine medication regimen. This standardized measure may identify those at increased risk for poor medication adherence and, more broadly, IADL difficulty.

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Ann PharmacotherHome page
E. Manias, C. J Beanland, R. G Riley, and A. M Hutchinson
Development and Validation of the Self-Administration of Medication Tool
Ann. Pharmacother., June 1, 2006; 40(6): 1064 - 1073.
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