D Brahma, M Marak, J Wahlang
irrational drug combinations, polypharmacy, rational use of medicines
D Brahma, M Marak, J Wahlang. Rational Use of Drugs and Irrational Drug Combinations. The Internet Journal of Pharmacology. 2012 Volume 10 Number 1.
Irrational use of Medicines is a global phenomenon. Rational use of drugs may be defined as: Patients receive medications appropriate to their clinical needs, in doses that meet their own individual requirements, for an adequate period of time, and the lowest cost to them and their community. Overuse, polypharmacy and incorrect use of drugs are the most common problems of drug use today. Irrational use of drugs may result due to various reasons at various levels including the prescribing errors and over the counter drugs. Irrational use of medicines may lead to serious negative health and economic consequences. Many irrational drug combinations are available in Indian market. Proper implementation of rational use of drugs will improve the quality of life and result in better community healthcare.
The Alma-Ata declaration, during the International Conference on Primary Health Care in 1978, reaffirms that health is a fundamental human right and the attainment of the highest possible level of health is a most important worldwide social goal.1 Medicines are integral parts of the health care system and modern health care is unthinkable without the availability of necessary medicines. They not only save lives and promote health, but prevent epidemics and diseases too. Medications are undoubtedly one of the weapons of mankind to fight disease and illness. Accessibility to medication is a fundamental right of every person.2
Ever since the accessibility of modern medicine increased all over the world, increasing incidents of its misuse in the form of overprescribing, multi-drug prescribing, use of unnecessary expensive drugs, self medication and overuse of antibiotics and injections have started. Thus, medications are starting to be misused.
Irrational drug use is a global phenomenon now. Medically inappropriate, ineffective and economically inefficient use of drugs occur all over the world. The scenario in developing countries is the worst. According to the reports of NRHM India, irrational drug use is a widely pervasive, irrational practice of medicine and is a matter of serious concern, especially for a developing country like India. 3, 4
The concept of rational drug use is age old, as evident by the statement made by the
Alexandrian physician, Herophilus, in 300 B.C that “Medicines are nothing in themselves, but are the very hands of god if employed with reason & prudence” 5
In simplest words rational use means “patient receiving appropriate drug to clinical needs, in adequate dose for the sufficient duration and at the lowest cost possible.”
As per the WHO (1985), the definition of rational use of medicines – “Patients receive medications appropriate to their clinical needs, in doses that meet their own individual requirements, for an adequate period of time, and at the lowest cost to them and their community.” 6,7
In addition to above definition, which is from the angle of medical therapeutic view, rational use of drugs can also be viewed from the consumers` perspectives. What is rational in a medical sense may not be rational for the consumer and vice versa. For the consumer, the rationality of using a drug is based on the (re)interpretation of its value for daily life, influenced by cultural perceptions and economic conditions.8 In India, therefore it can be a complex one with multiple cultures, religions, dialects and castes. For example, in North-east India, as Malaria is endemic in nature, people may buy and keep a few antimalarial tablets to be consumed whenever bouts of malarial attack comes, never bothering to complete the whole course of the medicine. Or, as most part of north eastern India is tough hilly terrain, people may prefer to spend money on analgesic tablets, and particularly injections to relieve their misery and to be able to carry on their normal works of earning livelihood, while good food and rest would have been better for their health.
Therefore, in understanding the actual meaning of rational use of drugs, both perspectives may need to be considered. However, the present overview on rational use of drugs shall be restricted to the medical perspective only.
The problem of irrational use
As per WHO, irrational or non-rational use is the use of medicines in a way that is not compliant with rational use as defined above. It was reported that worldwide, more than 50% of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed, or sold inappropriately, while 50% of patients fail to take them correctly. Moreover, about one-third of the world’s population lacks access to essential medicines. Common examples of irrational medicine use are:
Reason for irrational use of drugs
There are several reasons which may contribute to irrational use of drugs in our country:
Impact of irrational use of drugs
Some of the public health and economic consequences of irrational use of drugs are:
Adverse, possibly lethal effects, e.g. due to antibiotic misuse or inappropriate use of drugs in self-medication. 10
Limited efficacy, e.g. in the case of under-therapeutic dosage of antibiotics, tuberculosis or leprosy drugs.
Antibiotic resistance, due to widespread overuse of antibiotics, as well as their use in under-therapeutic dosage.11,12
Drug dependence, e.g. due to daily use of painkillers and tranquilizers.13
Risk of infection (due to improper use of injections): injection-related disorders are abscesses, polio, hepatitis and AIDS.14
Waste of resources: Reduced availability of other vital drugs and increased cost.
Irrational drug use and its consequence- the antimicrobial misuse problem:
The WHO says that antimicrobial resistance is one of the world’s most serious public health problems being faced. A major reason, of the irrational use of medicines according to WHO, worldwide, more than 50% of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed or sold inappropriately and 50% of patients fail to take them correctly. The consequence of this is seen directly with the misuse of antibiotics.
Some irrational fixed dose combinations available in the Indian Market:9
The fourteenth WHO model list of essential medicines (March 2005) contains only 18 approved drug combinations, whereas in India, there are innumerable examples of irrational drug combinations, which are available and can be bought without necessarily giving a prescription:
Steps for Promotion of more rational use of medicines:
WHO came out with twelve core interventions to promote more rational use of medicines: 7
The issue of rational use of medicines has been throbbing since decades and the essential medicine (EM) concept has been pulsating since long. Most of the economically developed and some developing countries have a medicine policy and their essential medicine list is regularly updated.15 Publication of EM list by Govt. of India in 2003 was a major step towards implementation of rational use of medicines. As of now, India has started to adopt policies of generic use, teaching and training the EM concept at an undergraduate (UG) level, pharmacovigilance programs and prescription audits, all contributing to the greater goal attainment of rational use of medicines. On its proper implementation, it would be very helpful to reduce morbidity and mortality rates associated with the drug use. It also will improve the allocation of the resources leading for better availability of necessary drugs with proper costs. Overall, patients will be benefited with decreased risk of unwanted affects such as adverse drug reactions and the emergence of drug resistance. Promoting the rational use of medicines would definitely help mankind to fight the disease and illness for a better tomorrow.