Self-medication: A compulsion or weakness?

Published on May 19, 2015 01:24:24 AM
Both literates and illiterates alike resort to self-medication for minor ailments without realising the side effects, the damage they can cause to body in future, explains the writer V Harsha

A news report appeared recently says that over 52% Indians resort to self-medication. It said this practice may pose severe health hazards and warned to desist from this. The report also made an interesting observation that, the consultation fee of the doctor is proving to be unbearable for the retired and middle-class segments which find it to be going beyond their limited purse strings.

Hence, many think this is the best way to avoid the doctor’s fee. The company that conducted the survey decided to educate people on perils of self-medication Other dimension to this self-medication practice is the physician’s hand-in-glove links with the medical representative who visits the clinic and promotes the drug of a particular pharmaceutical company.

The doctor also makes it a point to advise the patient to buy the medicine from the specified medical shop. The repercussions of self-medication are scary and the Lybrate, a doctor-patient end-to end communication platform- said the health problems caused by such ‘self-help’ patients include kidney failure, miscarriage, diarrhea and other problems.

The rise in self-medication cases is more in urban India.This can be ascribed to the physician’s over dependence on drugs that are manufactured by one pharmaceutical company and the medical rep’s consistent supply of free samples and the relief patients get after using it.

Many patients knowing well of its curative effect, would rather attempt same medicine than pay Rs 500 as doctor’s fee for the same ailment he went last time for treatment. Either the doctor must evolve a system to reduce the fee structure or tell the patient to administer the same medicine unless he finds further tests are needed to pinpoint the cause for relapse.

Though conventional doctors strongly disapprove tele-medicine for treating patients online, to overcome the daily rush of patients crowding clinic, modern alternative methods must be evolved, especially the aged and severely sick, and provide them treatment through telephone/mobile or Skype unless the condition his/her warrants personal check-up.

Dr Jagdish Prasad, Directorate-General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, says, "In India, Self-medication undoubtedly is a big problem. People do not check with doctors before taking a pill in cases of minor health problems. They take medicines on their own, forgetting that this might have adverse effect on their health. Given the scenario, the launch of the campaign is a great initiative”.

There are doctors who bluntly refuse to come home to see patients who cannot be moved. It’s sad and unbecoming of a doctor to refuse to see the patient on the ground that he would be losing his private practice business by leaving the clinic during peak hours.

 The chemist shops which simply give any tablet without prescription for minor ailments like head ache; body pains, stomach pain and back pain unknowingly create problems. Though these tablets give the patient immediate relief, neither the chemist nor the person who gets the relief by that ‘goli,’ realise the damage they can cause to body in future. Many---illiterates, people living in slums, and people who cannot afford a good doctor’s fee, straightaway rush to the chemist for buying that tiny ‘sanjeevani’ which gives them immediate relief.
Even the educated and semi-educated having a fair knowledge of medicines and their potency, indulge in self-medication either to avoid doctor fearing that there is some major problem behind the pain or have misplaced confidence of being better than a doctor. Internet search has become another ready-made physician which gives the medicine with a rider advising the online patient to consult the family physician before taking the medicine'. The nagging doubt is how many really bother to rush to the doctor once they get the required drug on the net which gives them much-needed relief!

A cousin who has become almost a doctor through this process of ‘heal thyself’ landed in serious medical problem with some drugs proving counter-productive and ending up with rash on his body resulting in a major skin allergy which did not leave him for many years. If self-medication is one extreme danger of a person risking his or her life, the other major problem is the competence of the doctor treating the patient. Many doctors do not explain the problem to patient, but simply administer medicine and discourage patient not to ask questions which are the domain of doctor.

The survey made some significant observations. "The Internet boom has further worsened the situation with people going online to explore possible options of medicines for their health problems. The practice of self-medication is rampant in India. People fail to understand that this carelessness does them more harm than good”… The scary part is, the physician encourages such queries online by collecting his fee through credit/debit card and with a rider advising the anxious patient to consult his family physician if he develops any complication!!

The doctor community must arrive at an understanding in handling such cases online. This cure thyself is the next deadly virus which would threaten the longevity of human beings unless global medical community takes serious note of it and arrest this menace without delay.

As one wise crack truly said, Three-quarters of the sicknesses of intelligent people come from their intelligence; they need at least a doctor who can understand this sickness.

V Harsha is a Delhi-based columnist