The pandemic has caused a lot of change in our lives and lifestyle. Right from wearing a mask to our diet. It is true that each one of us is more aware of health and wellness at least from a broader perspective. Nowadays even school children are aware of what is good for health and what is not. The best pharma companies are focused on scientific knowledge communication and not just selling medical products. There is a shift toward awareness and data-bound marketing. Though this sounds positive there is always another side. On the other hand, it has resulted in a surge in the self-medication and ‘OTC’ drug market. Medicines for cold, cough, flu, health supplements etc are sold over the counter like consumer goods.
The Urgency for Regulation:
Let us take a look at why it is a pressing need for regulations to come into play and control self-medication:
Lack of Knowledge:
Till today though the literacy level is on the rise, the level of medical knowledge about the basic drugs and medicines is still very pathetic. Even today we can find common public walking right into a pharmacy and picking up some random drug suggested by the pharmacist even without knowing the name of the drug given to him. This lack of basic understanding about the illness and the required medication is the first important hazard of self-medication.
Hazards Of Self-Medication:
- Appropriate medical advice and treatment could be delayed
- Wrong self- diagnosis
- Adverse and irreversible side effects
- Deteriorating health conditions that might turn to be helpless later
- Various diseases could get masked
- Death due to the above reasons
Futile legal steps:
To control self-medication, we need to first regulate the OTC market. In India, the OTC market is not properly defined as an independent category of drugs under the legislation.
Few steps have been taken by the central government by making the required provisions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act over the past four to five years. But the efforts are still only in-process and no fruits so far. Apart from the government, many pharmaceutical manufacturing companies are taking steps by filing petitions repeatedly, requesting the governing body to do the needful to tighten regulations.
Voluntary steps suggested:
No one knows the time that will be taken to see the desired change. Till then as small steps every contract manufacturing company, third party manufacturing company, and even nutraceutical manufacturer should start providing adequate labelling. The name of the drug, composition, expiry, date of manufacture, dosage instructions etc., should be neatly labelled in a legible font.
Another suggestion by the Indian Pharmaceutical Drugs Association and other bodies was to include Patient Information Leaflet in multiple languages and sufficient awareness of the drugs and their usage should be created on electronic media.
The above-mentioned steps are just fundamental and the basic moves to be taken by the government, public and the medical field players. The picture is not complete until all the three, work hand in hand!