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Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1997 Apr;61(4):488-93.

Multicenter study on self-medication and self-prescription in six Latin American countries. Drug Utilization Research Group, Latin America.

[No authors listed]



To evaluate the patterns of self-medication in Latin-American countries.


This cross-sectional drug utilization study took place at 242 pharmacies in 11 study areas in six countries. Unselected samples of customers were interviewed with a structured questionnaire after they had purchased a medicinal product without any medical prescription and without seeking or accepting the advice of the pharmacist or pharmacy counter assistant.


We interviewed 8597 consumers. They had purchased 10,569 pharmaceutical products. Ten percent of the products were intended for family use, 14.1% were for children, 68.2% were for adults, and 7.9% were for elderly people. Thirty-nine percent of the products were fixed-dose combinations, and 19% contained three or more active ingredients. Analgesics (16.8%) were the leading group of drugs, followed by antibiotics (7.4%), antiinflammatory and antirheumatic products (5.9%), and vitamins (5.1%). Consumers interviewed purchased relatively high numbers of cardiovascular drugs (494, 5%) and drugs that act on the central nervous system (256, 2.4%). Only 34% of dispensed drugs had an approved over-the-counter status; less restrictive criteria suggest that 24% should have been dispensed on a medical prescription.


The high proportion of fixed-dose combinations reflects poorly regulated pharmaceutical markets. The relatively high proportion of drugs dispensed without a medical prescription that nevertheless need medical follow-up is probably attributable to difficult access to medical care. The potential effectiveness of these treatments is therefore jeopardized by lack of medical follow-up. There is a need for implementation of a comprehensive pharmaceutical and health care policy in the participating countries.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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