Friday September 25 2015

Sensitise public on drug use, storage

Today is World Pharmacist Day. The theme for this year’s celebration is; “Pharmacist: Your partner in health”.
Public discussions on inadequate number of health workers in Uganda often focus only on medical doctors, nurses, midwives and laboratory technicians. Pharmacists are hardly mentioned.
Pharmacists are often described as experts on medicine. They are involved from manufacturing up to when the patient uses the drugs.
According to World Health Organisation, the rational use of drugs requires that patients receive medicines appropriate to their clinical needs, in doses that meet their own individual requirements, for an adequate period of time, and at the lowest cost to them and the community. Therefore, a pharmacist is at the centre of promoting rational use of medicine. Promotion of rational use of drugs requires a muti- sectoral approach involving policy makers, government institutions such as National Drug Authority and National Medical Stores, healthcare professionals and the general public.
The sector that is often under-looked is the general public. It is critical to sensitise the public on the proper use of medicine.
Let me illustrate how the public improperly uses drugs.
It is common to find family members sharing drugs prescribed for one person. Although the family would consider it economical, such practices would result in poor clinical outcomes such as prolonged duration of illness.
In my clinical rotation at Mulago Hospital, I have met patients whose conditions exacerbate after taking conventional medicines concomitantly with herbal medicines. Because there is inadequate knowledge on interaction between herbs and conventional medicines, it’s considered safer for patients to avoid taking both at the same time.
Once they start feeling better, some patients stop taking their medication. This can cause relapse of illness. A considerable percentage of the population self-medicates, sometimes taking drugs that they are not supposed to take. It puts on the patient unnecessary economic burden and at risk of complications resulting from the said drugs. To remain effective, a drug has to be stored in specified conditions. For example, some drugs are light sensitive and disintegrate when exposed to light. It’s important that the patient is educated on proper storage of drugs.
Extensive sensitisation of the public on proper medicine use will there go a long way in promoting proper medicine use in Uganda.
Kennedy Odokonyero,