The Use of Medicines in the Poor District of Peru. Essential Drugs Monitor No. 014 (1993)
(1993; 1 page)


A joint study from 1989 conducted by the Peruvian chapter of Health Action International, the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and the Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru surveyed citizens of Chimbote, Peru about their medicine use. Chimbote began as a small fishing village, but is now the second largest industrial center in Peru. Approximately 80% of people live in poor districts with limited access to clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. Malnutrition and infectious disease are common and neonatal and infant mortality have increased since the mid-1980s. When asked about medicine use, over half of the villagers interviewed said they used drugs to treat illness. The majority of drugs came from either a pharmacy or local grocery store and a doctor was consulted in only 34% of cases. Villagers turned to self-medication because public health centers were too difficult to reach and private consultation was too expensive. Researchers further questioned villagers about their use of drugs to treat the six most frequently mentioned health problems in the area (influenza, diarrhea, nonvisceral pain, fever, lack of appetite, and faintness). Results showed that there was significant misuse of antibiotics. For example, 11.3% of villagers admitted to using antibiotics to treat influenza and 40% admitted to using antibiotics for diarrhoea. Additionally, over half of all medicines taken were consumed without a prescription; 86% of medicines used to treat influenza, 65% of painkillers, and 36% of antibiotics were self-prescribed. Because most medicines were obtained from private sources rather than through the national essential drugs programme, the study disproves the assertion that private drug markets only cater to wealthy citizens in nations with essential drugs programmes. The researchers recommended using policy to control private pharmaceutical markets as a means of promoting rational drug use. (Abstract by Flannery Bowman)

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