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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


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