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Self-medication: putting drugs back in their rightful place

Self-medication does not give more power to patients, but to the companies who market the drugs. A discussion-debate on the subject was held at Prescrire's annual "Pilule d'Or" ceremony.
Details of the discussion-debate available free online.

> Click here for information on the discussion-debate.

Summary: Self-medication
Prescrire invited representatives from European associations of healthcare professionals, consumers and patients to take part in a discussion on self-medication at the 2009 Pilule d’Or ceremony held on 29 January in Paris.

According to these spokespeople for patients, consumers and pharmacists, drugs, even non-prescription products, are not just consumer goods like any other. And yet, their use is sometimes widespread, and even encouraged (medicalisation of existence), without a real consideration of the risks. Overconsumption of non-prescription drugs is costly, sometimes useless, even dangerous (when it delays appropriate patient care, or when it exposes patients to adverse effects). Changing a product’s status from prescription to non-prescription drug can have damaging effects on public health (exposure to more adverse effects through a change in prescription, abuse).

Advertising is permitted for over-the-counter products in France. Encouraging consumers to self-medicate is thus one of the pharmaceutical companies’ preferred ways of stepping up their direct-to-public communications on the non-prescription drugs they sell. These are often old drugs that are no longer reimbursed, and advertising boosts sales.

Only independent, reliable, quality information and increased cooperation between users, healthcare professionals and the health authorities can promote a rational use of drugs.

> Click here for the Dossier "The 2008 Prescrire Awards"

©Prescrire March 2009

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