Household survey on the pattern of utilization of medicines in selected communities in South Africa
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The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of drug use, and how morbidity, use of health services, self-evaluated health, demographic pattern and lifestyle characteristics influence drug use in a general population. The sample included 400 households randomly selected from two provinces (Western Cape and Limpopo). Results showed that 29% of the medicines used were not
prescribed by a health professional. The numbers of households keeping antibiotics were 11.3%, analgesics 26.8%, steroids 1.0%, and vitamins 6.0%. Most respondents (62.1%) indicated that they had obtained these medicines free of charge, while 25.1% paid in the range of 1 to 25 rand and 12.8% paid above 25 rand for their medicines. Most participants indicated that they have access to a
health facility within 10km of their residence where they could obtain medicines, could be reached within 30 minutes, and it would cost less than 5 rand for transport to reach the facility. On the management of childhood diarrhea, most respondents (63%) indicated that they would first give oral rehydration solution (ORS) while 22% said they would start by taking the child to a health
professional. Our findings suggest a need for an educational intervention to help patients decide on the appropriateness of self-medication so as to improve on rational drug use at household level. Attempts to reduce inappropriate self-medication
should target prescribers, pharmacists, and the general public.