Covid-19: Experts warn on  self-medication before tests

Wednesday June 23 2021

A man dissolves tablets in a glass. Experts say self-medication in Covid treatment is a big health risk. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA

By Damali Mukhaye

Medical experts have cautioned Ugandans against enrolling for Covid-19 treatment without first testing to know their status.

The practice has been mainly noted in a family setting where one member tests positive for the virus and the rest start on treatment without first testing and seeking medical advice.

The commonly used medicines are Zinc, Panadol, Vitamin C and Azithromycin, which are usually prescribed for people with mild symptoms of Covid-19.
 However, Dr David Nahamya, the Secretary for the National Drug Authority (NDA), said people should go slow on Covid-19 medication without the right diagnosis, saying  the side effects are enormous.

 He said the most common danger of this is drug resistance.
 “Why should you take the drug when you are not infected? What if it is a different illness? What if you take the wrong dose?” Dr Nahamya said in an interview yesterday.

He said people should first test and get the right diagnosis from the medical experts before taking any form of medication.
At the moment, a rapid Covid test costs about Shs80,000 and a normal one (Swab) that takes about 24 hours costs between Shs180,000 and Shs300,000.
Many people on self-medication claim they cannot afford such tests. But Dr Nahamya said good health is better than wealth.

“I know the challenges are there. Testing is not cheap, but it will be proper to get the right drug. There is a lot of tension out there, but let us be careful,” he said.


Dr Rosemary Byanyima, the deputy director of Mulago National Referral Hospital, said the Ministry of Health has released guidelines for the treatment of Covid-19, which the population should follow.
 She said Covid-19 patients are prescribed medicines depending on the severity of their conditions. 

 “What works for me does not work for you. This might harm you in one way or the other. One might not know how much medicine he or she should take and for how long. This should be done in consultation with the doctor,” Dr Byanyima said.

Dr Peter Kungu, who works at Alexandra Medical Centre, said they have received many cases of people who start on treatment for Covid-19 after getting a few signs, which he said is dangerous.
For instance, he said, most Covid-19 patients in critical condition are being given dexamethasone.

But Dr Kungu said this is not necessary for those without severe illness. 
“The body affected by Covid-19 responds by over production of cells to fight the infection and in the process, it becomes very weak. Such patients are usually given dexamethasone to normalise their situation, so what happens if you take it without any infections?” Dr Kungu said.

“Every drug we take has side effects. Why should someone overwhelm their body, liver and kidney with a disease they do not have?” he added.