Priscilla Adu Gyamfi’s thoughts … Self-medication: first aid or suicide


Health Perception:

In recent years, the practice of self-medication has become very normal to all people especially in Ghana. People from all age groups, whether adolescents, teenagers, youth, adults and the vulnerable aged, all purchase over-the-counter drugs to treat their health complications without resorting to expert advice or prescriptions from physicians.

Previous studies on self-medication prove that, self-medication can be suicidal for human consumption because of negligence and ignorance to composition of drugs, required dosage for effective treatment, understandability of allergies and side effects amongst duration of its usage. Nonetheless, although self-medication proves risky, so long as front-line health workers need to test the temperature and bodily responsiveness in determining the right drugs to offer, the general perception about first aid is considered on the notion of first-aid intervention.

The dilemma is that, if self-medication can jeopardize human health, can’t physicians also make the mistake of recommending unwarranted drugs in treatment of either complex or simple ailments? If that is so, then self-medication can even be thought of as another approach in leveraging risks between confused physicians and sick people. The debate projects further that, considering the rate of long queues at hospitals in seeking consultation from physicians, then minor ailments like headache and fever could be overcome with first-aid medications from over-the-counter drug sellers or local chemist shops and pharmacy shops.

This is where the warnings and cautions on self-medication prevail in human consumption because self-medication from empirical and evidence-base findings prove that, people suffer miscarriages, allergic reactions, severe bleeding, health complications and even death for abusing pharmaceutical drugs due to negligence and ignorance to scientific medications. On the other hand, cost of health care is very expensive for people to afford, hence, the concept of self-medication as perceived for first-aid may be very difficult to control, irrespective of the suicidal risks associated with self-medication.

Financial Implications:

Self-medication, through over-the-counter dispensation of pharmaceuticals, provides a big opportunity for licensed pharmacists, and other local licensed chemists shops. Scientifically, branded medications are not prescribed at hospitals unless specialist’s generic drugs. This means, pharmaceutical outlets have the portfolios of certain drugs available at their disposal to sell to the general public including both branded and prescribed medications from health practitioners. In relation to this, pharmaceutical outlets could be categorised under retailing – serving business to consumers or wholesaling – serving business to business clients.

Another critical evolution in pharmaceutical commercialisation involves the peddling and hawking of health-related medications stemming from herbal concoctions to chemical compounds. As a brain teaser, the greatest conflict between herbal medicine and scientific medication recalls the debate as to which of these medications are either artificial or natural considering the extent of resources involved in its productions.

Putting this industry argument aside, financial implications and consequences of self-medication also reflects on the biggest question of concern whether physicians prescribe herbal medicines? This means, most of the herbal medications are contributing to self-medication crises because few herbal medications have specialized herbal facilities prescribing such medications. In Africa, although herbal medications are highly respected, influence of scientific medication and indigenous production systems amidst extinction of potent traditional medicinal plants due to activities like illegal mining continues to gradually confuse black natives about the potency of herbal medicine.

The analogy can therefore be carefully deduced that, if such is the hypothetical problem, then are prevailing herbal medications purposely for financial profitability or to cure diseases our forefathers pioneered? Aside that, are pharmaceutical outlets taking financial advantage of ignorant and negligent people patronizing over-the-counter drugs?

What are the regulatory compliance systems and structures streamlining dangerous acts of hawking and peddling of pharmaceutical medications without clinical chemists or qualified pharmacists? Is the Ghana Standards Authority in compliance to World Health Organization policies on medication in partnership with the Ghana Pharmaceutical Council, Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health?

I guess the extent of threat is now a holistic stakeholder concern especially within this 2020 novel coronavirus pandemic.

>>>The writer is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ)


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