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Original Research

Prevalence and pattern of self-medication practices among population of three districts of South Karnataka

Nagarajaiah BH, Kishore MS, Shashi Kumar NS, Praveen Panchakshari.


Background: Self-medication is a general practice globally. People self-medicate by buying medicines at a medical shop either by asking its properties/symptoms such as pain killers/gastric drugs or by the advice of a qualified pharmacist/unqualified person in the medical store. This may lead to masking of severe/dangerous illness, which in turn can produce severe complications and heavy financial burden or loss of a life. Substandard drugs, improper dosage, dose intervals, lack of awareness of precautions or contraindications, and associated diseases can lead to drug interactions, drug poisoning/toxicity, and abuse of drugs.

Aims and Objective: To assess the prevalence, pattern, and reasons for self-medication practices among population of three districts of South Karnataka.

Materials and Methods: A preformed, pretested, and semistructured questionnaire was used to obtain the data. The questionnaire comprised questions regarding sociodemographic profile, use of self-medication, pattern of use of drugs, factors affecting their use, knowledge of the people regarding dose, duration, side effects, and interactions of the drugs in use, source of information about the drugs, and attitude toward allopathic, ayurvedic, and homeopathic medicines. The subjects were interviewed regarding the use of self-medication drugs for a recall period of 6 months duration. Statistical analysis was done using appropriate statistical method and software.

Result: Of the 5,489 respondents, 4,316 (78.63%) reported self-medication within a 6-month recall period. Of these respondents, Mandya reported high self-medication practices (81.86%) when compared with Bangaloreans (72.39%). The difference was significant. Among the different age groups, high self-medication was seen in 41–60 years age group (40.48%) and low among those aged > 60 years (29.37%). The difference was significant. Self-medication was high in male (82.76%).than female subjects (72.87%). Self-medication was slightly more in rural population (79.05%) than urban respondents (78.20%). The most common conditions/symptoms for which self-medication was done was for gastric symptoms (72.10%), followed by joint pains (65.89%), headache (63.02%), fever (47.87%), and common cold (37.95%). The difference was statistically significant, with P < 0.001. Self-medication was significantly more in rural owing to nonavailability of doctors (62.01%) when compared with urban residents (38.14%). Self-medication was time-saving and, for minor illnesses, was also more in rural (64.99% and 73.78%, respectively) when compared with urban (58.82% and 68.76%, respectively) residents. The most important source of drug information for self-medication was family members and relatives (32.30%).

Conclusion: The study showed the high prevalence of self-medication, and it was nearly same in both rural and urban population. Although most of the drugs self-medicated were in the list of over-the-counter drugs, but many used antimicrobial drugs, and some even got opioid analgesics as pain killers. In our study, we came to know that, on comparison, many rural female subjects were using steroids creams/ointments as fairness cream than urban female subjects. This is very dangerous, and government should have very strict guidelines for the sale of drugs for self-medication.

Key words: Self-medication, Prevalence, Non-prescription drugs, Rural population

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