Author(s): Moses Ocan 1,*, Freddie Bwanga 2, Godfrey S. Bbosa 1, Danstan Bagenda 3, Paul Waako 1, Jasper Ogwal-Okeng 4, Celestino Obua 1
Self-medication is a common practice in most parts of the world and it refers to the use of medicines to treat self-diagnosed disorders without a prescription and medical supervision . Antimicrobial agents especially antibiotics are the commonly used drugs for self-medication globally, with over 50% purchased and used without a prescription . The prevalence and nature of self-medication varies in different countries and from culture to culture worldwide . A study done in Nigeria reported that 57.3% of the respondents used antibiotics without prescription .
The evidence of the benefits and risks of drugs used in self-medication by patients is mostly obtained from past experiences with similar drugs. Medicines such as antibiotics which provide rapid relief of disease symptoms are preferred by most patients and are likely to be used without consulting a medical professional . However these medicines may also possess rare but serious adverse effects whose occurrence can potentially outweigh their benefits .
Drugs designated as non-prescription offer patients improved access to treatment which is of benefit in timely management of common illnesses . In using non-prescription drugs, patients take responsibility of, recognizing the appropriate indication, appropriate dosage regiment or seeking medical advice in cases where adverse events may occur or when the illness does not improve . This is a challenge especially to patients in developing countries where there are high illiteracy levels. In addition information used to help guide decision making on drug use is mostly obtained from friends/relatives, previous prescriptions and past experiences of using specific drugs. The lack of adequate information to support decision making on drug use in self-medication and the challenges in regulation of drug supply and dispensing in developing countries contributes to the inappropriate use of medicines . This inappropriate use of drugs especially the antimicrobial agents has been associated with increased risk of resistance development . Antimicrobial resistance is currently a major concern to developing countries where the burden of infectious diseases is high yet with limited choices of therapy .
However community treatment of common diseases using self-medication is being encouraged by the World Health Organization (WHO), as this is thought to help reduce the burden on health care services . It is considered to be of benefit especially to developing countries where there is a challenge of limited healthcare infrastructure and human resource. These countries also lack the capacity to regulate self-medication making it difficult to have a responsible framework for the practice.
The health system in northern Uganda was greatly affected during the two decades of armed conflict. Most of the health units were closed and those that remained operational had challenges of having few or no staff. With the return of relative peace, some of these health facilities have reopened but still they face the challenge of attracting and retaining qualified medical staff in addition to having limited medical supplies. There is...