Factors that influence Italian consumers' understanding of over-the-counter medicines and risk perception

Patient Educ Couns. 2012 Jun;87(3):395-401. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.10.003. Epub 2011 Nov 26.


Objective: To evaluate information needs for safe self-medication we explored the Italian consumers' functional health literacy, specific knowledge and risk awareness about over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.

Methods: A survey was conducted in the health sections of six large super stores. Data were collected from a convenience sample of 1.206 adults aged 18 years and older through a self-administered questionnaire.

Results: Around 42% confused the concept of "contraindications" with that of "side effects" and were unable to calculate simple dosages. Most respondents were aware of the OTC general potential for side effects but 64.3% did not know that people with high blood pressure should use painkillers with cautions and 14.0% and 20.0% were unaware of the risks of long-term use of laxatives and nasal decongestants respectively. Higher total scores were obtained from women, highly educated people and those citing package leaflets as information sources.

Conclusion: The study, the first of this type in Italy, showed an incomplete awareness of several risk areas, with regard to drug interactions and misuse/abuse.

Practice implications: The results of this study were the basis of a following intervention plan tailored to the observed consumer needs and including information tools for customers and courses for the retail pharmacists.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Community Pharmacy Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Comprehension*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Literacy*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior
  • Italy
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonprescription Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Perception
  • Risk
  • Self Medication / adverse effects
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People
  • Young Adult


  • Nonprescription Drugs