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Self medication: putting drugs in their place

In some common situations, drugs are unnecessary. Prescrire’s information sheets outline these situations to help determine when it is necessary to seek the advice of a professional, which drugs should be avoided and which ones may be helpful.

Since July 2008, pharmacists, if they so decide, have been authorised to sell some drugs to the public over the counter. However, the pharmacist still has a duty to refuse to dispense a drug if it is in the interest of the patient’s health.

To help healthcare professionals and patients manage these situations, Prescrire has produced a series of practical information sheets, listing a selection of drugs based on their risk-benefit balance.

Prescrire looks at common self-medication situations, to help determine when advice should be sought from a health professional, pharmacist or doctor; how to treat the problem without drugs, which drugs to rule out, and which drugs may be helpful. A sore throat, for example, is most often due to a viral infection which clears up spontaneously. Sucking throat lozenges and drinking plenty of liquids are usually sufficient to soothe the throat until it clears up; if necessary, paracetamol can relieve the pain. But a number of symptoms indicate that medical advice should be sought.

©Prescrire November 2008

Source: "Situations courantes d'automédication (suite)" Rev Prescrire 2008; 28 (300): 752-762.

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