By PETER MALASHA –
A healthy nation is a productive nation.
When citizens are healthy, they contribute to economic growth through various economic activities.
People should maintain good health through constant medical check-ups and avoid habits that are harmful to one’s good health such as self-medication or treatment without guidance from qualified health professionals.
Self-medication has traditionally been defined as the taking of drugs, herbs or home remedies on one’s own initiative, or on the advice of another person without consulting a medical doctor or qualified health personnel.
Self-medication is a growing global problem and potential contributor to human pathogen resistance to antibiotics.
The negative consequences of such practices should always be emphasised to communities and steps taken to control them.
Irrational use of antibiotics without medical guidance may result in greater probability of inappropriate, incorrect, or undue therapy, missed diagnosis, delays in appropriate treatment, pathogen resistance, morbidity and mortality.
Complications of self-treatment may include increased resistance of pathogens to medicines, wastage of resources, health hazards like bad reaction and prolonged sickness and suffering.
Antimicrobial resistance is a major global problem that has badly affected developing countries like Zambia as there is a trend where people have access to drugs without any prescriptions.
In an interview, Central Province health specialist Isaac Banda said self-treatment is a dangerous practice because it caused resistance to certain drugs such as instance antibiotics.
Dr Banda said drug stores dispense these antibiotics without even testing or an accurate diagnosis, which could result into giving wrong drugs.
Instead of someone getting a full course, they may get a partial course, resulting in antimicrobial resistance which was dangerous because it became costly if one got sick and the drug that might cure the disease could be expensive.
“To guard against this practice, it is important that members of the public get to hospitals and clinics where history will be taken and where they’ll be examined and, if tests are needed, they will be done.
“Members of the public should encourage each other to visit the health facilities when sick instead of prescribing medicines to one another and drugstore owners advised against supplying drugs to people that walk in, demanding drugs without a prescription,” Dr Banda said.
“We want a situation were buying drugs should be on prescription instead of just walking in like that saying ‘lam feeling ill, give me some drugs’,” he said.
Dr Banda further observed that some people tended to self-medicate because they wanted to be treated quickly without having to endure long queues in hospitals.
He also said, others concluded they had malaria when they felt feverish and had headaches, because of similarities in diagnosis of malaria given in a previous hospital visit.
Many prefer quickly buying medicine from drugstores or pharmacies to the long lines at health facilities.
Dr Banda added that the health sector will continue to engage the communities through various media such as radio stations, Television (TV) and print to ensure that people were discouraged from self-medicating.
In efforts to address the situation, the government has employed a number of health workers to ensure that those long waiting times were reduced.
“Health facilities have more staff now. The issue of waiting a long time has been reduced and effective and timely attendance to patients and clients is ensured so as to facilitate appropriate treatment instead of self medicating,” said Dr Banda.
Pharmaceutical expert Jerome Kanyinka who is also former Pharmaceutical Association of Zambia (PAZ) President said in an interview that there was need by health facilities to change the approach on the way of treating patients as there were pharmacists everywhere.
Government needs to see how community pharmacists could be incorporated and act as a strength or centre of primary health care, due to proximity of the pharmacy to members of the public.
“Unlike saying stop this, stop this. There are some things that can be done by a pharmacist that the members of the public can appreciate. The blame must not only lie on the members of the community but also on the health workers. The trend is as a result of similarity in diagnosis and symptoms,” he said.
The current situation regarding drugs in hospitals is not good and because of this, patients can only access certain drugs from pharmacies.
“We may advise people not go that route, but what are we doing to stop that kind of behaviour from happening. This is not enough and members of the public must be educated on the issues concerning drugs and abuse of medication,” Dr Banda said.
He added that self-prescribed medication could be harmful in that they might cause the situation to worsen or result in death.
There is need for government to review the medicine and substance allied Act to promote sanity in the health sector to avert mushrooming of unlicensed drug stores.
“So,we need to review the medicine and substance allied Act actually as soon as possible so that we do the correct thing for the benefit of every Zambian,” he said.
Proprietor of Marshallah Natural Clinic and Integrative Medicines Rodgers Kaluba said people should always seek medical attention from qualified health professionals be it in conventional or herbal medicines.
Dr Kaluba further discouraged people who were in the habit of going to traditional healers to seek remedies for various ailments because they had no good prescription.
Dr Kaluba gave an example of a person suffering from ulcers.
Self-prescription would be dangerous, because one would not know if the ulcers were peptic, gastric or duodenal.
There would be need to consult a qualified health worker to understand the problem and prescribe the appropriate medicine.
“We need to remedy the situation from the conventional point of view.
“The dosage is not there. The efficacy is not really there. People just go to the anthill, get Caciaabbreviata [Munsokansoka] roots, put in a five-litre container and take at a go. That is a wrong way of self prescribed medicine,” Dr Kaluba said.
He urged people taking traditional medicine to seek attention from people practicing scientific herbal medicine so that they could be helped to have a good prescription and dosage.