Background: Prescription and nonprescription medications constitute a substantial proportion of the health care costs of countries. National drug policies and attitudes toward medication use may play a role in irrational prescribing and consumption of medicines, leading to drug wastage. The limited resources of developing countries warrant more careful assessments of current national drug policies.
Objective: This study quantified the amounts and types of medications that are stored in a sample of urban Iranian households and estimated the extent of drug wastage in these families.
Methods: A literature search was conducted using MEDLINE and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts for 1966 to 2004 to identify articles on drug utilization and wastage. Randomly selected households in a large city in Iran were visited to determine the amounts and types of medicines stored in these households. A questionnaire was used to collect information about medication use in these families.
Results: A total of 512 households were assessed. The mean (SD) family size of household respondents was 4.3 (1.6) members. Mothers were responsible for managing medications in 58.1% (291/501) of families. Presence of chronic illness, insurance coverage, higher economic status, literacy among fathers, and siblings without medically related jobs were the variables that showed a significant relationship with the amount of medicines found in the households. The mean (SD) numbers of unit doses of medicines and of drug products found in these households were 238.5 (198.6) and 22.99 (20.1), respectively. The most common therapeutic classes of medications kept at home were central nervous system agents, anti-infectives, and gastrointestinal medications. The real and potential medication wastage was estimated to be 38.8% and 53.8%, respectively.
Conclusions: Medications were stored in large quantities in these urban Iranian households, and a large percentage was being wasted. Drug-use assessments and a comprehensive evaluation of the current national drug policies are warranted to curtail this problem.