The use of prescribed drugs for common chronic conditions in South Africa in 1998

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2005 Feb;14(2):91-100. doi: 10.1002/pds.1056.


Purpose: To determine the prescribed drug-utilisation pattern for six common chronic conditions in adult South Africans in a cross-sectional survey.

Methods: 13,826 randomly selected participants, 15 years and older, were surveyed by trained fieldworkers at their homes in 1998. Questionnaires included socio-demographic, chronic-disease and drug-use data. The prescribed drugs were recorded from participants' medication containers. The Anatomical Therapeutic Classification (ATC) code of the drugs for tuberculosis (TB), diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, other atherosclerosis-related conditions, such as heart conditions or cerebrovascular accidents (CVA), and asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), was recorded. The use of logistic regression analyses identified the determinants of those patients who used prescription medication for these six conditions.

Results: 18.4% of the women and 12.5% of the men used drugs for the six chronic conditions. Men used drugs most frequently for hypertension (50.9%) and asthma or chronic bronchitis (24.3%), while in women it was for hypertension (59.9%) and diabetes (17.5%). The logistic regression analyses showed that women, wealthier and older people, and those with medical insurance used these chronic-disease drugs more frequently compared to men, younger or poor people, or those without medical insurance. The African population group used these drugs less frequently than any other ethnic group. The inappropriate use of methyldopa was found for 14.8% of all antihypertensive drugs, while very few people used aspirin.

Conclusions: The methodology of this study provides a means of ascertaining the chronic-disease drug-utilisation pattern in national health surveys. The pattern described, suggests an inequitable use of chronic-disease drugs and inadequate use of some effective drugs to control the burden of chronic diseases in South Africa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease / drug therapy*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • South Africa