Over-the-counter remedies require no prescription obligation, but they are not without some indications and instructions that are advisable to comply with. In Italy there are about 46 million individuals who purchase and consume over-the-counter medicines. What precautions should be taken into account in this “DIY therapy”? We discuss the topic with Dr. Maria Fazio, Head of the Pharmacy at Humanitas.
Medications for small disorders
According to a recent research carried out by Censis in collaboration with Assosalute, over-the-counter medicines (also called OTC) end up in the homes of about 46 million Italians. About 15 million consume them more frequently. More than 7 out of 10 people believe that self-medication may be sufficient for the treatment of small disorders. This percentage is higher than the one in 2007, when 64.1% Italians were convinced that they could treat themselves.
For the composition they have, OTC drugs are intended for self-medication, i.e. use without prior consult with a doctor, for disorders such as fever, headaches, and intestinal problems. It is precisely because of their characteristics of use that they are also called “symptomatic”. The prescription – explains Dr. Fazio – is an additional safety factor in the use of the drug in addition to those related to controls in the market authorization. The prescription shows that the patient has been examined by a doctor, who thought it was useful for his health to prescribe that particular medication to be taken according to precise indications “.
The most common minor disorders that affect, with a different degree of severity, the quality of life of Italians range from back pain – low back pain is the most common disorder – to coughs and colds, headaches as well as stomach and bowel problems and the flu. In most cases, these are transient disturbances.
First to the doctor
The investigation carried out by Censis has shown that the use of over-the-counter medicines is not always completely independent. Although these are drugs that do not require a prescription, the purchase is often conscious. The first time you take a drug without prescription to treat a small disorder, more than 70% of individuals ask for advice from a doctor or pharmacist, while about 83% still reads the package leaflet and 68.4% say they fully understand its contents.
Returning to the doctor or pharmacist days after taking the medications is usually the case when the illness continues to afflict the individual. In 88.5% the individuals visited the doctor, while 36.2% went to the pharmacist. The fact that the drug is described as “over-the-counter” means that the pharmacist’s advice is useful to ensure that it is used correctly and at the right dosage. If the disorder you are suffering from is not resolved by OTC medications, you should always consult your doctor,” – explains the specialist.
What other precautions should be taken when taking over-the-counter medicines? There are no specific precautions for over-the-counter medicines: however, they are still medications, so the same precautions apply when taking any medication. It is a good idea to follow the advice given by the pharmacist and read the package leaflet, which is a useful tool for proper use of the drug,” concludes Dr. Fazio.