Self-medication with non-prescribed pharmaceutical agents in an area of low malaria transmission in northern Tanzania: a community-based survey

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2019 Apr 1;113(4):183-188. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/try138.


Background: Self-treatment with antimicrobials is common in sub-Saharan Africa. Little is known about the prevalence of this practice where malaria transmission intensity is low, and little is known about the prevalence of self-treatment with other medications such as antihypertensives and antihyperglycemics.

Methods: A two-stage randomized population-based cluster survey with selection proportional to population size was performed in northern Tanzania. Self-identified healthcare decision-makers from randomly selected households were asked to report instances of self-medication without a prescription in the preceding year. Associations between self-treatment and sociodemographic characteristics were assessed with Pearson's chi-squared and the Student's t-test.

Results: A total of 718 participants completed the survey, and 344 (47.9%) reported any household member obtaining medication without a prescription. Of these, 85 (11.8%) obtained an antimicrobial and four (0.6%) obtained an antihypertensive or antihyperglycemic. Of respondents reporting self-treatment, 306 (89.0%) selected the medication themselves. Self-treatment with antimicrobials was associated with post-primary education (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.22-3.16, p=0.005), younger age (43.1 vs 48.7 years, p=0.007) and higher socioeconomic status score (0.42 vs 0.34, p=0.023).

Conclusions: Self-treatment with antimicrobials in an area of low malaria transmission intensity was uncommon and self-treatment with antihypertensives and antihyperglycemics was rare.

Keywords: Tanzania; anti-infective agents; antihypertensive agents; self-medication; sub-Saharan Africa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malaria / drug therapy*
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Malaria / transmission*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tanzania / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Infective Agents