Self-medication misuse is a major problem in the Middle East, finds a review, indicating the need for better patient and physician education. The findings published in Pharmacology Research and Perspectives, emphasizes the need for improved policies that restrict sales of prescription medications without a prescription.
In the Middle East, prescription medicines can easily be purchased without a prescription, resulting in potential misuse and unnecessary risk. To examine self-medication misuse in the Middle East, Dr. Malak Khalifeh, of the Bordeaux University in France, and her colleagues conducted an extensive review of literature published between 1990 and 2015.
‘Self-medication misuse is widespread in the Middle East. Some of the medicines involved in misuse include codeine containing products, topical anesthetics, and antibiotics.’
The team identified a total of 72 papers. Medicines involved in misuse included codeine containing products, topical anesthetics, topical corticosteroids, antimalarial drugs, and antibiotics. Self-medication misuse seemed widespread, and pharmacists, friends, and parents were the main sources of medications.
One study noted that pharmacies in Iran sold 57% of prescription items without a prescription. Another found that in Syria, 87% of 200 pharmacies visited agreed to sell antibiotics without a prescription. This figure increased to 97% when the investigators who were at first denied antibiotics insisted on having the antibiotics.
In Saudi Arabia, only one attendant pharmacist refused to dispense medications without a prescription. Strategies and interventions to limit misuse were rarely mentioned in studies.
The findings indicate that there is a serious problem of self-medication misuse in the Middle East involving a range of medicines.
"There is a relative lack of literature relating to self-medication misuse in the Middle East, and there has been relatively little systematic research on this topic, partly due to the perception that self-medication misuse is not as problematic as other types of drug abuse," said Dr. Khalifeh.
"This review has found a massive problem, and it could be used as a reference for multiple research studies that deal with self-medication misuses in Middle Eastern countries."