Kampala – More Ugandans are treating themselves without first seeing a doctor as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
The Uganda Pharmaceutical Company Board made the revelation in a recent statement.
“With the surge in COVID-19 cases in recent months, many people have decided to use drugs such as dexamethasone and azithromycin in the management of COVID-19 without professional advice. health, ”the council said.
The practice, known medically as self-medication, involves sharing drugs with relatives / family members or using leftover drugs for the treatment of self-recognized illnesses or resubmitting old prescriptions to the pharmacy.
“With the COVID-19 epidemic, people have turned more and more to self-medication because there is no cure,” says Dr. Ekwaro Obuku, physician and health policy expert, “They use anything that helps relieve pain. “
He says COVID-19 and measures to curb it like lockdowns have left many people jobless and penniless. This led them to change their way of life.
The Uganda Pharmaceutical Company Board, which is responsible for ensuring standards in pharmacy practice, says the country is struggling with self-medication that claims it can cure COVID-19.
The increase in self-medication is due to increasing levels of poverty, poor health services, and increasingly numerous pharmacies of varying quality.
The most common self-medicating substances are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and dietary supplements, which are used to treat common health problems in the home. Over-the-counter medications used include pain relievers, cough and cold medications. They are mainly used for self-medication as they are easily accessible in pharmacies without a medical prescription.
However, due to regulatory challenges, self-medication can be practiced using prescription drugs only (POM).
Dr Obuku says unregulated access to POMs and over-the-counter medications is likely to increase the prevalence of complications from self-medication.
“This practice can lead to inappropriate treatment of symptoms and conditions as well as potentially lead to new conditions, such as substance use disorders or addiction,” Obuku explains.
Dr Nehemiah Katusiime, general manager of Kawempe General Hospital, says self-medication with over-the-counter drugs can be safe and acceptable if the consumer has adequate knowledge of the drug and the disease.
“When practiced correctly among informed populations, self-medication can reduce physician wait times and some health care expenses like doctor’s consultation fees,” he told The Independent.
“However, POMs and over-the-counter drugs are often considered dangerous when used irrationally, resulting in different drug interactions and ultimately increasing the burden of disease in a population due to resistance,” he adds.
Dr Apollo Odeke Epuwatt, doctor at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, says self-medication can lead to wasted resources, delay in diagnosing problems and providing appropriate treatment. It can also lead to serious health risks and adverse drug reactions.
Epuwatt cautions that while self-medication is a form of self-care commonly used to manage symptoms of minor illnesses or injuries, the practice of self-medication for serious health issues, such as mental health issues, involves many risks.
Self-medication could lead to incorrect self-diagnosis, delays in seeking appropriate medical advice and treatment, potential side effects, worsening of the condition the individual is trying to self-treat, dangerous drug interaction, masking serious illnesses and a risk of addiction and abuse
“Medicines should therefore be taken under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner in order to minimize the risks of inaccurate self-diagnosis, poor choice of therapy, inadequate or excessive dosage, food and drug interactions,” adds Epuwatt.
People can self-medicate for a variety of reasons, including the availability of drugs in establishments other than pharmacies.
In appropriately functioning health systems, essential medicines must be available in sufficient quantities, in appropriate dosage forms, of guaranteed quality and with adequate information, and at prices that the individual and the community can afford and at the scheduled times.
But people can resort to self-medication if the cost of medical treatment, including doctor’s visits and medication, is high. Some fear seeking treatment because of perceived negative stigma; they may want to hide or deny a condition. Some may have used ineffective drugs in the past. Self-medication can also be due to attitudes towards health care, gender, education, insurance policies, cost savings, convenience, and age.
The urge to take care of oneself, sympathy for sick family members, lack of health services, poverty, ignorance, disbelief and excessive advertising of drugs are also factors.
Dr Obuku says many Ugandans who suffer from more serious health issues, especially mental health issues, are turning to self-medication.
“Rather than seeing a doctor for proper medical diagnosis and treatment, many people use supplements and other substances, sometimes drugs and alcohol, to try and cope with the symptoms they are experiencing.
He says that because of COVID-19, many people ended up feeling depressed and stressed.
Dr Katusiime says self-medication is a global health problem with serious public health implications such as public health risks. It can lead to drug resistance, organ damage, and contributes 2.9% to 3.7% of deaths worldwide, mostly due to drug interactions.
In 2010, the National Drug Authority (NDA) estimated that eight in ten people self-medicate or buy over-the-counter drugs. The NDA attributes this to the increased number of pharmacies and drugstores, expensive treatments from clinics, and long distances to health facilities.