Abstract This paper focuses on general practitioner and district nurse knowledge of prescribed drugs taken by their elderly patients, and the evaluation of a method of improving that knowledge by a patient held drug guide. Serious differences were identified in the knowledge of doctors, nurses and patients about drugs. The drug guide was associated with an improvement in patient knowledge of drugs as well as a reduction in disagreements between doctors and nurses. A key issue addressed is patient culpability in compliance. It is argued that this is a simplification which overlooks important factors such as inadequate communication and lack of knowledge on the part of doctors and nurses as well as the difficulties the patient may have with the regime.