Self-medication in Underserved Population in India: A Review

Self-medication is a common practice in treating symptoms due to acute and chronic illnesses. It is a significant health dilemma in India. Exposure to advertising, low level of literacy, short duration of ailments, leftover medications, geographical barriers, embarrassment, affordability and health insurance are reasons for individuals opting for self-medication. Underserved populations in India are more likely to experience or accept self-medication due to these reasons. The major problem with self-medication is misdiagnosis, which can further perpetuate more complications. Furthermore, treating adverse events from self-medication can financially burden individuals and the healthcare systems alike. Healthcare professionals such as pharmacists can play an important role in minimizing the risks associated with self-medication through appropriate counseling and dissemination of accurate information to their patients.  Recommendations for minimizing risks of self-medication include, increasing healthcare education for the public; especially the underserved populations, creating and reinforcing stricter government regulations on advertisements by drug companies, improving knowledge and comprehension of the side effects for drugs, increasing better communication between patients and healthcare providers, and improving access and quality healthcare for underserved populations. This review focuses on the reasons why individuals practice self-medication, the risks involved, and discusses possible recommendations for alleviating those risks related to self-medication.