CHENNAI: A 23-year-old IT professional, Anjana, didn’t know that excessive use of an ointment for skin pigmentation disorder would turn her skin black, causes rashes and also lead to skin peeling. What's worse was that her groom called off their wedding — just a week before the big day.
Anjana had consulted a dermatologist for a skin pigmentation disorder on her face. The doctor prescribed the ointment and told her not to use it for more than 15 days. But since the ointment worked well, she kept using it for four months. She had no idea that the ointment had steroids in it.
The groom, who came to Chennai from Dubai, saw Anjana a week before the scheduled date and refused to marry her. “I had to explain to him that her face would be alright after treatment. I then had to prescribe her drugs to get back her looks. Then the guy was counselled and after six months, they got married. But not before both families suffered humiliation. People don’t realise that self-medication can be disastrous,” says Dr Ratnavel, head of cosmetology department, Government Stanley Medical College and Hospital.
The recent ban on 344 Fixed Dose Combination (FDC) drugs by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is a welcome move for the country as there are no stringent rules to monitor pharmacies where drugs are sold without prescriptions, say experts.
Since there is no monitoring system, people self-medicate and adverse reactions to drugs are becoming increasingly common, says Dr Ravichandran, general physician, Billroth Hospitals. The health ministry has banned the manufacture, sale and distribution of these drugs under Section 26 A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (23 of 1940). But most of these drugs can still be bought easily — even without a prescription.
“Some patients recommend medicines to others, and they later have similar complaints. But they don’t understand that each person’s body structure is different and requires a different medical treatment,” says Dr Ravichandran.
An expert committee formed by the ministry found that FCD drugs have no therapeutic justification. Safer alternatives to these drugs are also available. “A single drug can even lead to renal failure or other serious conditions in diabetics and among people who are allergic to certain drugs. It will take months for doctors to diagnose the cause and treat it,” says Dr Sirkali G Sivachidambaram, dean, Government Perambalur Medical College and Hospital.
The anti-diabetic drug Metformin, with Pioglitazone and Glimepiride, combination is banned. Pioglitazone, if used for a long period without a doctor’s prescription, may increase body weight, and cause swelling in the legs. It was banned a few years ago after a controversy that it could cause bladder cancer. However, the ban was later revoked.
“When there are such controversies. Taking drugs without a doctor’s prescription is no joke,” says Dr P Dharmarajan, head of the diabetology department, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.
Findings From a Study on Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry:
- Most people self-medicate using drugs like analgesics, native herbs, and antibiotics. The main reason is motivation from relatives and friends
- The prevalence of self medication is 72%. The source of medicines in most cases was a pharmacy (62.5%). Over 49.8% of people self-medicated due to lack of money to consult a doctor
- The study was done to assess self-medication for oral health problems in villages in North India