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Written by Dr.Swati Rajagopal

Irrational and overuse of medicines is becoming a big health hazard.

Before popping a pill next time, think if you really need it. Or whether it is the right one for your problem and is being taken in the right proportion.

Estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) state that 50% of medicines consumed are either not necessary, taken incorrectly, taken for wrong periods of time, or with wrong dosages.

Health experts say incorrect prescription by doctors, or dispensation by chemists, and self-medication by patients is the leading cause of this hazardous phenomenon. And it is highly prevalent across the city.

“Irrational consumption of medicines is both wasteful and harmful,” says Dr Chandra Gulhati, editor of monthly index for medical specialities (MIMS), a reference journal for doctors.

He says that while some doctors tend to over-prescribe, chemists too can dispense incorrectly.

“Patients often ask chemists to recommend medications. The dosage or medicine itself can be wrong,” says Dr Gulhati.

Medicines have to have a medical reason before being consumed, says Dr Swati Rajagopal, internal medicine consultant at Columbia Asia Hospital. “Since all medicines have side-effects, irrational usage can be harmful.”

When medicines are taken irrationally
Dr Rajagopal says antibiotics and painkillers are the leading categories that tend to get irrationally used.

“We hear of patients who consume antibiotics for viral fever or something like diarrhoea.

They would have heard someone taking the antibiotic, and without any checks with their doctors, just end up swallowing it,” says Dr Rajagopal.

Retired banker J Nagendra Rao regularly uses quiniodochlor, a drug for diarrhoea, which can also cause eye problems. Rao is barely aware of the side-effects, and does not believe in taking medical advise for something “minor like diarrhoea.”

If Rao is at fault for self-medicating himself, then MA student Manasa Gopinath’s doctor is at fault for over-prescribing.

Two weeks ago when Gopinath was down with fever and cold, her physician prescribed an antibiotic and cough syrup.

Experts say an easy solution like paracetamol, combined with rest can prove more effective. Also, grandma’s remedy of salt water gargling or taking tulsi and ginger is better than cough syrups.

Experts say pill popping can turn addictive for some people, who might resort to consuming medicines for every minute ailment, thus resulting in dependence.

Wrong medicine
WHO describes rational use as when patients receive appropriate medicine, in doses meeting their own requirements, for an adequate period, and at the lowest costs.

As per the World Health Organization, 50% of all medicines are prescribed or given by chemists are irrelevant.

About 50% patients do not consume medicines correctly.

Some people consume too many medicines.

Some people self-medicate, often using prescription-only drugs, which in India are sold without prescriptions.

Some are over-prescribed injections when oral medicines can do the job.

Irrational usage tends to be wasteful and harmful.

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