One pill too many? – Driving and medication

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Researchers investigate the effects of taking several types of medication on older drivers

That certain medication poses a risk for safe driving is well known and also well researched. However, what’s still unclear are the adverse affects that arise when several types of medication are combined, as is often the case with older people. This will be the subject of a study called ‘FahrMed’, which is the first of its kind in Germany, conducted by a team of researchers at the Institute of Psychogerontology at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the Centre for Geriatric Medicine at Klinikum Nürnberg during the next six months.

‘Taking this medication may impair your capacity to drive a vehicle safely’. Almost everybody has read something along these lines in the patient information leaflet included with their prescribed medication. The fact that certain medication poses a risk for driving safely is nothing new. Less clarity exists however, about the negative interactions that occur when patients take a combination of several different medications – referred to as polypharmacy. The risk for such undesired side effects is around 5 percent if a patient takes up to four different types of medication, for six different types, this increases to around 20 percent and if they are taking seven to eight different types every day, the risk increases to over 30 percent.

On average, people over the age of 65 take four to six types of medication per day due to various medical conditions, but having to take ten to fifteen different types is not unheard of. Researchers at the Institute of Psychogerontology at FAU led by Prof. Dr. Frieder R. Lang and in collaboration with the Centre for Geriatric Medicine at Klinikum Nuremberg led by Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. univ. Markus Gosch are hoping to discover more about whether polypharmacy has a negative impact on the ability of the elderly to drive a vehicle safely.

Study participants required

Anyone aged 75 or over who still drives a car and who takes medication on a daily basis can take part in the study. In addition to a comprehensive examination of the range of capabilities that are most important for safe driving, participants will receive a detailed medical consultation about their medication. The results will be treated with the strictest of confidence and anonymised for the study. Anyone interested in taking part in the study can contact the researchers by calling +49 911 5302 95115 or by sending an e-mail to

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Frieder Lang
FAU, Institute of Psychogerontology
Phone: +49 / 911 5302 -96115

Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. univ. Markus Gosch (PMU Salzburg)
Klinikum Nürnberg

Phone: +49 911 398 2434