What you need to know:
- Recently, pharmacists asked doctors to stop prescribing dexamethasone for Covid-19 patients under home based care, saying it lowers immunity and increases the risk of developing severe disease.
The second wave of the pandemic that has led to increase in hospital admissions and the resultant high medical bills has seen many Ugandans resort to self-medication.
The mostly common drugs bought in shops and pharmacies include Azithromycin, Vitamin C, Panadol and Zinc.
But medical experts warn that such drugs should not be bought over the counter without recommendation by doctors.
Dr Pamela Achii, the president of Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda, says some people are stocking drugs based on other Covid-19 patients’ prescriptions, which she says is dangerous.
“People are using referral prescriptions on WhatsApp because one of their patients took the drug and so it is referred to the entire family or friends.
‘‘Even though medicine is used across all groups of people, it is important that one is assessed by a health professional to ensure the drug he or she taking is actually good for them,” Dr Achii says.
She adds: “What is good for one person may not be good for another.”
According to Dr Winnie Nambatya, a clinical pharmacist and lecturer at Makerere University, Azithromycin should not be taken by those under home based care because it has dangerous effects on the heart.
“Azithromycin that people are buying has bad effects on the heart. As you keep taking it, you are going to develop cardiac problems,” Dr Nambatya says.
“There are no resources to monitor cardiac activity at home, so it is best not to use this drug,” she adds.
What regulator says
According to the National Drug Authority (NDA) Azithromycin falls under Class B Group One drugs, which may be given only on the prescription of a duly qualified medical practitioner.
Dr Nambatya also warns against the use of Zinc, saying it has many side effects. For instance, she says the drug is not recommended for breastfeeding mothers.
“Zinc may be a simple drug to the community but it has terrible side effects such as lowering the functionality of nerves. Women that are breastfeeding, this medication can be detected in breast milk, so you can actually transfer this drug to your child,” Dr Nambatya explained.
Recently, pharmacists asked doctors to stop prescribing dexamethasone for Covid-19 patients under home based care, saying it lowers immunity and increases the risk of developing severe disease.
Dr Nambatya says even Vitamin C should not be misused as it may lead to kidney stones.
Self-medication also causes drug resistance, according to Dr Achii.
“All medicines are toxic unless used in a prescribed manner. Panadol itself has a problem with kidney toxicity and many of us are not aware of that. They recommend maximum of three days because continued use of medicine predisposes us to certain side effects,” Dr Achii says.