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GPs must be aware of risk in misuse of non-prescription meds, claims study

GPs need to be more aware of non-prescription medicines that patients take because those with a long-term illness are more associated with misusing or abusing them, a new study has found.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Healthsurveyed 1,000 people across the UK, and found that people who were younger, and had a long-standing illness that required non-prescription medicines regularly or had a history with illegal drugs – had a higher association of abusing or misusing non-prescription drugs. 

The survey also revealed that overall there was a 19.3% lifetime prevalence of misuse throughout the UK – commonly through accidentally taking more than the recommended dose of analgesics – and a 4.1% lifetime prevalence of abuse, most often intentionally using flu remedies to relax or help with sleep.

But people dependent on non-prescription drugs - such as analgesics containing codeine – were also identified in the study and dependence was found to have a 2% lifetime prevalence rate.

The researchers of the study, from the University of Aberdeen, said the survey results highlights the problems of ‘self-care’ and are important for GPs who 'should be more aware of what medicines patients take.' 

The reasearchers added: ‘Having a long-standing illness is clinically relevant as it reinforces the need for clinicians to be aware of concurrent use of non-prescription medicines by their patients, particularly those with pain and to be mindful of the potential for misuse, abuse and dependence.’

They went on to add that GPs need to be more vigilant with patients to prevent potential misuse, abuse or dependency of non-prescription medicines.

‘Given the increasing emphasis on self-care and empowering the public to manage their health with non-prescription medicines, the findings highlight the need for improved pharmacovigilance of these medicines to maximize benefits with minimal risk.

‘Healthcare providers need to be aware of the potential for misuse, abuse and dependence, particularly in patients with long-term illness,' the researchers concluded. 

The research is published in the Journal of Public Health

Readers' comments (5)

  • No Ordure Sherlock!

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  • Yet another potential problem for GP's to check. Before long we will be asked to check that patients are wiping their arses correctly and not leaving little turds attached that might lead to irritating but minor pruritus ani. I am just glad to have walked away 6m ago aged 49 and I will not return. The NHS is doomed.

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  • Why not have CCT camera's in all patients houses, that the "named GP" monitors night and day, ensuring they are not eating to much or to little, getting enough exercsie (not to much or to little), they don't get burnt while cooking, not put to much salt on thier food, are cleaing thier dishes and house, having a wash daily, and sleeping the recommended 8 hours a night. If not then intervene at every point, because a nanny state is essential to keep patients well. Adults should not be ever allowed to make decisions for them selves, this needs to always be overlooked by their GP (Ideally placed, even more now than ever with the help of CCTV).

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  • Stop using ANY 24 hour/day and 365.25 day / year services in solidarity with those who went before.

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  • I note the cooments above and note the general tone of discontent. This discontent seems so very widespread these days. The Junior Doctors are unhappy and the GP's seem to be struggling to cope. As a result, we have doctors seeking to emmigrate, to leave the profession or to seek early retirement. This has got to beg the question, why are we so defeated?

    Lets face it matters will only get worse. Patient expectations soar, immigration adds to our case load and government reduces expenditure.

    So why are we so timorous in fighting our corner. Why are we so hopelessly fragmented. Why can we not coordinate and agree on a plan of action, not just for GPs, not just for Juniors, not just for Consultants, but for the whole profession.
    We need to decide what we will put up with and what has got to go. May I start the ball rolling;
    1. We need a GMC governed by the profession with an elected council whose members state what their ideas and programs would be and then stand for election by the profession as a whole. The current lot do not command my confidence.

    2. We need rid of the CQC.

    3. We need to put NICE in its place. The supposed "guidelines" are in fact rules. Any deviation from these rules is pounced upon by a legal profession with time to contemplate and the benefit of hindsight.

    4. We need a level of income that reflects our training and the responsibilities we carry. We should not be subsidising the NHS. I would propose that Junior Doctors, after 5 years of Medical school and student debt, should start on the same salary as Junior Bankers or Train Drivers. So, we start at £55,000 and work from there.

    4. We put together a package of what we all of us agree upon and ask the BMA to ballot us for strike action until all points are met. Then we go on strike for a few weeks and return to a much healthier profession. Just like they have achieved in New Zealand.

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