Numbers of medications per patient and rate of drug administration errors were compared in Wisconsin long-term care facilities that used federal indicators in conducting drug-regimen review versus facilities that did not use the indicators. Data were collected from 1132 charts in 24 facilities randomly selected from a state survey schedule for June-October 1982. Both prescription and nonprescription drugs that patients received during the 30-day period preceding the survey were counted. Medication use was compared by facility type--skilled-nursing facility (SNF), intermediate-care facility (ICF), or ICF for the mentally retarded. The federal indicators were used in 10 facilities. Mean number of medications used per patient where indicators were applied (5.4 versus 6.6 for SNFs and 3.4 versus 5.8 for ICFs ) was not significantly different. In SNFs using the indicators, patients received 5.6 medications where the consultant pharmacist was also the provider and 5.2 where the consultant was not the provider. Medication use was not significantly different by facility type. The number of drug administration irregularities per 100 residents was significantly greater where indicators were not applied. Further study is needed to determine whether use of federal indicators encourages more efficient and appropriate drug therapy for patients in long-term care facilities.