Multicenter study on self-medication and self-prescription in six Latin American countries. Drug Utilization Research Group, Latin America

Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1997 Apr;61(4):488-93. doi: 10.1016/S0009-9236(97)90199-5.


Objective: To evaluate the patterns of self-medication in Latin-American countries.

Methods: This cross-sectional drug utilization study took place at 242 pharmacies in 11 study areas in six countries. Unselected samples of customers were interviewed with a structured questionnaire after they had purchased a medicinal product without any medical prescription and without seeking or accepting the advice of the pharmacist or pharmacy counter assistant.

Results: We interviewed 8597 consumers. They had purchased 10,569 pharmaceutical products. Ten percent of the products were intended for family use, 14.1% were for children, 68.2% were for adults, and 7.9% were for elderly people. Thirty-nine percent of the products were fixed-dose combinations, and 19% contained three or more active ingredients. Analgesics (16.8%) were the leading group of drugs, followed by antibiotics (7.4%), antiinflammatory and antirheumatic products (5.9%), and vitamins (5.1%). Consumers interviewed purchased relatively high numbers of cardiovascular drugs (494, 5%) and drugs that act on the central nervous system (256, 2.4%). Only 34% of dispensed drugs had an approved over-the-counter status; less restrictive criteria suggest that 24% should have been dispensed on a medical prescription.

Conclusions: The high proportion of fixed-dose combinations reflects poorly regulated pharmaceutical markets. The relatively high proportion of drugs dispensed without a medical prescription that nevertheless need medical follow-up is probably attributable to difficult access to medical care. The potential effectiveness of these treatments is therefore jeopardized by lack of medical follow-up. There is a need for implementation of a comprehensive pharmaceutical and health care policy in the participating countries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Antacids / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Latin America
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Analgesics
  • Antacids
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Vitamins