Half of Indians don’t go to a doctor but just walk up to a nearby medical store and buy a medicine over the counter, according to a study sending alrming signals on inaccessibility to health care that is afflicting the country’s huge population.
The study conducted by Lybrate, a healthcare firm, said 52% of the people in India prefer self-medication both for financial constraints and suspicion of doctors in the country. But self-medication causes health problems like liver damage, strokes and ulcers to kidney failure, miscarriage and diarrhoea among many users. Sometimes, it causes irreversible health damage, warrns the study.
The study observed 20,000 respondents in 10 cities across the country for their research. To stem the menace, a nationwide awareness campaign “Say No to Self-Medication” was launched on Tuesday by Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services.
“In India, self-medication undoubtedly is a big problem. People do not check with doctors before taking a pill in cases of minor health problems. They take medicines on their own, forgetting that this might have adverse effect on their health,” Prasad said, launching the campaign.
Another problem is that the drugs are easily available over the counter The study also said that in India, easy availability of drugs for minor health ailments was leading to the menace of self-medication. In some cases, druggists themselves suggest medicine and give it just for RMP price.
“People take pills based on the suggestion of chemists, friends or just by themselves depending upon their past experiences. The internet boom has further worsened the situation with people going online to search about possible options of medicines for their health problems,” the study said.
Lybrate CEO Saurabh Arora said there was an urgent need to address and stop the trend and educate people about the harmful effects of self-medication.
“The important link for our campaign is the chemists who sell drugs to people and so we are asking them to support the campaign and make it successful. We will start from Delhi-NCR and take the campaign to other parts,” he said.
Why it Won’t Work?
More than launching campaigns, the basic factor is the unscrupulous medical fraternity in India that is misguiding patients to undergo unnecessary medical tests and burdening the poor or middle class with very high hospital and medical tests.
In five-star hospitals, often their salary is tied to how many tests they have prescribed or suggested to patients daily. Unless the whip is cracked on erring doctors and hospitals, it is unlikely that ordinary educated middle class will stop buying simple medicines over the counter or by just reading about it online.
Since it is difficult to stop people from being thrift in a highly taxed economy like India, the government machinery should hold free workshops not for doctors but for the aged or retired employees about the common medicines and when to use them or when to consult the doctor. They should be made volunteers to carry out the campaign in turn.
The government should also implement the long-pending demand for display of medical service cost prominently in hospitals, which is still not done in small to 5-star hospitals across the country.
Instead of blinking at such positive measures, the government should exempt medical services from its high and unparalleled taxation, especially the service tax that is as high as 14%, not seen in any other emerging nation.