By Dr. Fred Siyoi
Deputy Registrar, Pharmacy and Poisons Board 
According to the World Health Organization's (WHO), self-medication is defined as the use of drugs to treat self-diagnosed disorders or symptoms, or the intermittent or continued use of a prescribed drug for chronic or recurrent diseases or symptoms.
Self-medication is an increasingly common practice. Global research, spanning 50 countries, into consumers' attitudes towards key aspects of self-care revealed that 95% of respondents were open to taking medicines to self-treat minor ailments.
According to published studies; factors influencing self medication include but not limited to; age, education status, family and cultural attitudes, advertising by drug manufacturers, previous experiences with the symptoms or disease, previously used prescription medicines that are stored at home, the socioeconomic  status and the mental status of individuals e.g. depression & anxiety.
Patient contentment with healthcare provider and long waiting times have also been cited as some of the drivers of self medication among the general public. It was also noted that one common reason for indulging in self-medication is the perceived high cost of private doctor's consultations. Responsible self-medication is driven largely by two aspects of drug safety: the intrinsic characteristics of the drug and how the drug is used. Appropriate use depends upon the availability of information, and how easily it can be accessed.
Self medication is increasingly becoming a threat to  public health initiatives across the world. Globally, self-medication is  reported to be on the rise. In developing countries people are not only using non-prescription drugs (eg Painkillers like paracetamol, antacids) but also prescription only  medicines (eg antibiotics, antideperessants), to  self-medicate without supervision.
Whereas self medication may result in faster access to medicines and offer relief to patients, it is not a completely safe practice, and there are risks that can arise from it. Risks of self medication include; incorrect self-diagnosis, delays in seeking medical advice when needed, use of inappropriate medicines that can lead to adverse events, masking the symptoms of a serious disease, and inaccurate dosages, infrequent but severe adverse reactions, dangerous drug interactions, incorrect manner of administration, risk of dependence and abuse, anti-microbial resistance.Most commonly abused medicines through self-medication are over-the-counter medicines (OTC medicines). These are medicines that can be bought in pharmacies without a prescription.  They include but not limited to painkillers, antacids, vitamins and cough remedies.
Prescription medicines (or legend drugs) are drugs that require a prescription before you can acquire them as they are considered to be potentially harmful if not used under the supervision of a licensed health care provider.  Example of prescritption only medcines include antimicrobials, anti-hypertensives, anti-diabetics, antidepresants, narcotics analgesics among others.
As pointed out, one of the biggest problems associated with self-medication is anti-microbial resistance, which is now considered a major threat to global public health as declared by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2016.
Antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally over time, usually through genetic changes of microorganisms. However, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials has been noted to accelerate this process. In many instances, antibiotics are overused and misused by individuals often without seeking professional advice from health care providers. An example of misuse includes people with viral infections like colds and flu taking antibiotics.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) is the National Medicines Regulatory Authority for Medical Products in Kenya. The mandate of the PPB is to promote and protect public health by ensuring that medicines, medical devices and other health technologies are safe, efficacious and of accepted quality. PPB is concerned over rising cases of self medication with prescription only medicines like antibiotics and other groups of medicines.
Healthcare professionals have been trained to accurately diagnose an ailment and administer the appropriate medication to treat a particular condition. If you or your loved one is experiencing a certain illness, it is therefore advisable that you visit your healthcare professional. Do not self-medicate; Let the healthcare professional; determine the cause of your ailment and prescribe the right medicines. Consult your Pharmacist or Pharmaceutical technologist whenever in doubt. This ensures you get the right medicine and the right dose for the right condition at the right time.
PPB is advising you to only buy prescription medications if they have been prescribed to you by a reputable and registered health professional. Always remember to buy medicines from PPB registered drug outlets ONLY.
Remember that once the doctor has prescribed a medicine and the pharmacist/pharmaceutical technologist has filled the prescription, it’s up to you to take the medicine as instructed.
Here are some tips that can help:
  • Always seek medical attention whenever you fall ill from registered healthcare professionals. Buy medicines from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board licensed health facilities and ensure that you are only served by qualified personnel in these premises. Licensed personnel are required  to display their practicing license issued by the Board at all times
  • Use all medicines  as directed by a health professional
  • Never share your prescription medications with others or use someone else’s prescription medications
  • Always store your medications securely to prevent others from using them and properly dispose off that are no longer in use.
  • Be a good example to those around you by modeling these safe-medication taking practices and discuss the dangers of misusing prescription drugs with your family, friends, colleagues, students or patients.
In case you suffer any side effects or adverse reaction(s) , get  in touch with your healthcare professional immediately.For more information visit the Board at www.pharmacyboardkenya.org, Facebook; Pharmacy and Poisons Board, Twitter @ppbkenya, or call +254720608811, email : info@pharamcyboardkenya.org or pv@pharmacyboardkenya.org.


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