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THE PHARMA REVIEW (SEPTEMBER 2009)

Self Medication: How Safe? Ask Your Pharmacist

Pawar NV , Jain SK, Shahi SR

Introduction
Medicines for self-medication are often called ‘Non-Prescription’ or ‘Over The Counter’ (OTC) and are available without a doctor’s prescription through pharmacies. In some countries OTC products are also available in supermarkets and other outlets.

The World Self-Medication Industry (WSMI) defines Self-Medication as the treatment of common health problems with medicines especially designed and labeled for use without medical supervision and approved as safe and effective for such use.

Over the counter (OTC) drugs is a form of self-medication. The buyer diagnoses his own illness and buys a specific drug to treat it based on his previous experience or after receiving advice from his associates or the salesman at the pharmacy counter.

A person may also self-medicate by taking more or less than the recommended dose of a drug. Self-medication is the use of drugs sometimes illicit, to treat a perceived or real malady, often of a psychological nature.

What is the Basis of Self Medication?
Interested and Informed consumers
Everyday, everywhere, consumers reach for self-care products to help them through their common health problems. They do so because

  • It may be easier for them.

  • It may be more cost or time efficient.

  • They may not feel their situation merits making an appointment with a healthcare professional.

  • They may have few or no other options

The challenge and opportunity for governments, healthcare professionals, and providers of self-medication products, then, is to have a responsible framework in place for self-medication.
 
There is evidence that consumers can and do practice self-medication responsibly. There is also support showing consumers recognize and respect nonprescription medicines. As a whole, they use them appropriately, carefully, and safely; and they read nonprescription drug labeling.
 
Consumer practice studies in many countries - in Asia, Europe, and the Americas - document this fact. While there are some variations in the incidence of studied health conditions and responses to them, people around the world generally respond to their everyday health problems in much the same way. They let the condition run its course roughly half the time, but turn to nonprescription products about a quarter of the time. Studies show people are typically cautious and careful when they do turn to nonprescription medicines. They read labels, and they generally take products for less than the maximum period of time indicated on the label.
 
Finally, aging populations, increased interest and emphasis on wellness and disease prevention, and consumer empowerment themes are all trends prevalent in many societies. Self-medication fits into these trends as well.

 

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