Hyderabad: Self-medication in India has doubled from 23 per cent in 2006 to 41 per cent in 2016, according to a study carried out across 22 centres in the country where consumers, doctors and chemists were interviewed. The study found that the categories of acidity, constipation, headaches, cold, cough and fevers had the highest self-medication.
Lack of time to visit the doctor, high consultation fees and increased reliance on internet-based solutions has been found to be the main reasons for self-medication. Despite the high numbers, 74 per cent of the consumers complained that the labels do not give enough information about the medical products.
Greater urbanisation, higher levels of education and awareness have played a major role in the rise of self-medication among people.
A senior doctor explained, “The rising cost of simple healthcare expenses, longer waiting period at clinics and failing public health systems are making people opt for self-medication wherever possible. There is a culture of home remedies rooted in traditional systems which can’t be denied.”
For this reason, the World Health Organisation (WHO) insists on responsible self-medication as a part of self-care which is being acknowledged as an integral part of primary healthcare. While responsible self-medication is being acknowledged as a valuable tool in the West, in India, accepting over the counter (OTC) drugs requires a change in the regulatory framework and equally strict monitoring to ensure that there is no misuse.
OTC drugs are medicines sold directly to a consumer without a prescription from a healthcare professional.
A. Vaidheesh, the president of the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, explained, “Access to safe and affordable medicines is important in OTC policy. This requires a well-regulated OTC guideline in place and the right kind of patient awareness. To set this up, a framework is very important as presently there is no classification of OTC drugs.”
With more consumers becoming digitally savvy, it has been found that 49 per cent of the internet users use the digital media to either read information on health or use it before visiting a doctor.
A senior healthcare professional in a renowned hospital explained, “The digital platform has taken over for the internet savvy generation who check and recheck before visiting the doctor. Similarly, once a disease or even a minor ailment is diagnosed, people read up and see if there are options to treat it at home.”
Chemists have for long been giving away medicines which according to them are harmless and a cure for small ailments. But the need for the OTC policy will open that category as non-dangerous and help monitor those drugs which are scheduled as dangerous and must be on prescription only.
Dr Hari Kishan, senior general physician, explained, "Unchecked self-medication poses a danger to patient safety and negatively impacts health outcomes. The easy availability of antibiotics is a case in point which shows the rising antimicrobial resistance in the country. It is very important that apart from a regulatory framework, there are proper checks and controls done to ensure that it is not misused.”...