Self-medication practices to prevent or manage COVID-19: A systematic review

PLoS One. 2021 Nov 2;16(11):e0259317. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0259317. eCollection 2021.


Background: Previous studies have assessed the prevalence and characteristics of self-medication in COVID-19. However, no systematic review has summarized their findings.

Objective: We conducted a systematic review to assess the prevalence of self-medication to prevent or manage COVID-19.

Methods: We used different keywords and searched studies published in PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, Embase, two preprint repositories, Google, and Google Scholar. We included studies that reported original data and assessed self-medication to prevent or manage COVID-19. The risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS) modified for cross-sectional studies.

Results: We identified eight studies, all studies were cross-sectional, and only one detailed the question used to assess self-medication. The recall period was heterogeneous across studies. Of the eight studies, seven assessed self-medication without focusing on a specific symptom: four performed in the general population (self-medication prevalence ranged between <4% to 88.3%) and three in specific populations (range: 33.9% to 51.3%). In these seven studies, the most used medications varied widely, including antibiotics, chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, acetaminophen, vitamins or supplements, ivermectin, and ibuprofen. The last study only assessed self-medication for fever due to COVID-19. Most studies had a risk of bias in the "representativeness of the sample" and "assessment of outcome" items of the NOS.

Conclusions: Studies that assessed self-medication for COVID-19 found heterogeneous results regarding self-medication prevalence and medications used. More well-designed and adequately reported studies are warranted to assess this topic.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fever / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data*


  • Antiviral Agents

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.