Thursday, 28th September 2023

Danger of self medication, errors

By Editorial Board
09 October 2022   |   3:55 am
The twin problems of self medication and medication error that reared their heads at this year’s World Patient Safety Day are sufficiently alarming because of their high prevalence, and a preponderance of factors facilitating the unwholesome practices.

PHOTO: aspenridgerecoverycenters

The twin problems of self medication and medication error that reared their heads at this year’s World Patient Safety Day are sufficiently alarming because of their high prevalence, and a preponderance of factors facilitating the unwholesome practices. Chief of the factors is the high poverty level that serves as disincentive to the average Nigerian from seeking medical help in hospitals. Health care is generally expensive; and even in public hospitals, it does not come free, and in any event, patients are required to pay for diagnoses and drugs. The second factor is the dearth of health workers in health institutions, particularly the public sector; a situation that impedes prompt, seamless health care, and may ensure that patients spend a whole day waiting for the doctor. Addressing these issues effectively will require much more than admonitions to patients or health workers.

Warning Nigerians against indulging in self medication, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire who was represented by the Director of Hospital Services, Dr. Adebimpe Adebiyi emphasised that, self medication poses more dangers to the human body than the ailment itself.  According to the minister, “It is important to be examined by a healthcare professional and diagnosed so that the correct medication can be given to you.”

The minister is right. The habit of people at some point taking medications to prevent or treat illness without doctors’ prescription should be discouraged in the society. Such medications may not be appropriate for the ailment, or it could be incorrectly administered. In both instances, harm, medical complications and even death may be occasioned. Most people carelessly undertake self medication out of poverty or ignorance, but it is not enough for to have headache and the next thing is to grab any pain relief drug over-the-counter as the likely remedy. It is important for one to beware of the harm self medication may cause without prescription from a doctor or pharmacist. Besides, lots of drug in the market lack adequate examination and may be fake or substandard.

Emphasizing the theme ‘Medication Safety, Medication Without Harm’, the health minister also enjoined health workers to ensure best practices to avoid medication errors in patients, stating that erring health workers will face sanctions. He said, “Once any of the malpractices are reported to the regulatory bodies, for example, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), there is an investigative panel and a tribunal for cases of malpractice. Anyone found wanting will be sanctioned according to the law.”

Medication errors can come by negligence or carelessness; but they can also occur as a result of stressful experience of health workers, and this is easy to come by when very few health personnel have to attend to huge, disproportionate number of patients. Sadly, this is typical of the entire Nigerian healthcare system especially in the public institutions. Government surely needs to address funding deficit as well as health insurance, much beyond the present level. Current reality where only highly placed public servants, aside of wealthy citizens in the private sector can seek medical attention abroad is not ideal, as it leaves the majority to the mercy of the grossly inadequate home system.

The annual global campaign against self medication requires support from government, healthcare stakeholders and the masses of Nigerians to awaken the consciousness and to prioritize and take action against unsafe medication. Beyond this, government has to take a leap further to halt the continued loss of healthcare personnel in search of greener pasture in foreign lands. Given the poor state of affairs in our healthcare system, exodus of medical personnel abroad has compounded the challenge and further undermines efficiency. It is disheartening that, in several cases, the patient has become an object or specimen for random experiment as the country lacks adequate facilities to diagnose health issues. This anomaly must be rectified first before the minister’s warning against erring medical personnel will have much meaning.

Nevertheless, the truth is that the health care sector in the country is generally in crisis and the challenges facing the system facilitate errors and self-medication. Many health workers are operating under excruciating conditions using dilapidated healthcare facilities. Many patients cannot afford prescribed drugs and resort to cutting corners without considering the serious repercussions.

Government at every level must address these issues holistically, including taking measures to develop traditional and herbal medication which have gained popularity as a source of complementary and alternative remedies to modern medicine. Herbal medicines have made significant impact in human health through its promotion and curative properties in the prevention and curing of illness. But there is need for government to develop and take it away from its current hazy and unreliable status. Herbal remedies can become modern medicines through drug development and research.

Above all, government must take a keener interest in the health of Nigerians. Welfare of citizens, including their well being, is one of the primary purposes of government. More so, a nation’s greatest asset is the good health of its citizenry. Hence, the popular saying that healthy citizen signifies a healthy and prosperous nation. Also, with regards to medical prescription and treatment, there is need to empower patients, individuals and families so that they can afford formal medication and ask the right questions about the kind of medications they are being given.