World Medical Association Supports Self Medication But Warns Against Misleading Patients

The World Medical Association has publicly supported global moves towards self medication, but has warned about the dangers of patients being misled by inaccurate information

Dr Anders Milton, chairman of the WMA, told a World Self Medication conference in Berlin today, that self medication was increasing and was here to stay. Doctors saw this as a positive development and supported the practice of giving ordinary citizens a chance to take greater responsibility for their health.

'We believe that a greater role for patients in health care, a greater role for self care in health care, can lead to a decrease in demand for consultations concerning some of the more mundane problems that occur in patients' lives.

'I do not think that this will lead to a decrease in demand overall for consultations, but I believe that the mix will be different. Doctors will have the possibility to allocate more time to the patients who are in a greater need of help while patients with minor ailments can, when properly informed, address their problems through self medication'.

Dr Milton said he did not think that increased self medication would save money for health care systems. But it would require giving citizens information 'that is truthful and not misleading, that helps them come to a correct decision but is not oversimplified, that does not give unjustified promises or otherwise glorifies the product in an inappropriate way'.

Patients must never be given the impression that serious disorders could be treated without the help and assistance of doctors, nurses and other heath professionals.

'Non prescription drugs can be misused, abused or overused creating side effects that can lead to a need for hospitalisation or other costs for society from loss of days off work'.

Dr Milton said the self medication industry had to keep physicians informed about non prescription drugs and the World Medical Association and the World Self Medication Industry were preparing a joint statement on self medication to define the circumstances where they thought self medication was appropriate.

'We both have an interest in seeing sensible self medication develop throughout the world, in seeing to it that patients are well informed and thus able to take rational decisions and play a pivotal role that they should be managing their own lives.'