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Pharmacists can positively influence on responsible self-care in Russia

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The study, designed to determine the importance of the concept of responsible self-care for consumers, pharmaceutical and medical workers, as well as to identify barriers to its implementation , was conducted from May to October 2022 throughout Russia in the form of an online questionnaire. About 1,000 consumers, 1,500 pharmaceutical workers and 1,450 doctors took part in the survey. ACHi conducted the survey in partnership with the National Pharmacists Chamber, Yandex.Market, the Russian Medical Academy of Continuous Professional Education and the St. Petersburg Union of Doctors.

The survey showed that in Russia the term "responsible self-care" is understood in its own way. In line with the generally accepted global concept, it incorporates various aspects, including the responsible consumption of over-the-counter drugs and other consumer health products advised by pharmacists. However, Russian consumers associate it primarily with a healthy lifestyle. Thus, the most important, from their point of view, components are the control of the duration and quality of sleep, as well as a healthy diet (very important or rather important for 76% and 72% of consumers, respectively). At the same time, such elements of responsible self-care as taking vitamins and dietary supplements, as well as medical examinations, are important only for 44% of respondents.

A visit to a doctor in Russia is dictated more by formal reasons or existing health problems than by a responsible attitude towards it: 42% are related to the treatment and control of chronic diseases that patients already know about, and 42% are related to sick leave. Only 29% attend preventive examinations, and 9% do not go to the doctor at all.

Nevertheless, in case of ailments, more than half of the respondents choose medicines without the advice of specialists: 38% act on their own, 9% ask friends or relatives for advice, and 8% look for information on the Internet. Only 26% seek advice from a doctor and another 13% consult a pharmacist in a pharmacy.

As a result, uncontrolled prescription drug purchases are common in Russia, with only 41% of consumers surveyed having never purchased them without a prescription. The results show that the risks of self-selection of prescription drugs are underestimated: only a quarter of respondents take this step due to the fact that they do not have the opportunity to promptly consult a doctor, while the remaining 75% are guided by less valid reasons. Adding to the danger is the fact that consumers are not well aware of the differences between prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Although 70% of surveyed consumers claim to understand the difference, they most often name purely formal signs, including erroneous ones (for example, 4% reported that prescription drugs are more expensive than over-the-counter ones).

Raising awareness about over-the-counter drugs would be an important step in promoting responsible self-care. OTC status is assigned only to drugs with a high safety profile. The survey showed that among pharmacists there are practically no opponents of patients choosing OTC medicines on their own: only 2.6% believe that this should not be allowed under any circumstances. The picture is quite different among doctors: about a quarter of them consider the independent choice of dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs unsafe. However, the majority of both doctors and pharmacists understand the importance of counseling: 2/3 of pharmacists and about half of doctors believe that before consumption of an over-the-counter drug, a consumer should consult a specialist, whether a pharmacist or a doctor. Therefore, it is important to improve the availability and quality of advisory support, and in relation to over-the-counter drugs, the main burden falls on pharmacists as first-line specialists.

Pharmaceutical workers are ready to provide this support: 95% consider counseling as their professional duty. 2/3 of the surveyed pharmacists believe that even when buying an over-the-counter drug, consultation with a specialist is needed, and they are ready to provide this assistance. The situation for this is generally favorable, since 88% of consumers trust pharmacists, although they are not sufficiently aware of their role (37% mistakenly think that a pharmacist can diagnose mild ailments).

At the same time, the study showed that the role of pharmacists in the healthcare system is greatly underestimated. 52.6% of doctors do not know what pharmaceutical counseling means, and about a third call it unacceptable when a pharmacist recommends an over-the-counter drug to a visitor, and consider this solely the prerogative of medical professionals.

“Pharmaceutical workers can significantly contribute to the development of the concept of responsible self-care in Russia,” says the Executive Director of the Association of the Consumer Health Products. – However, this requires raising awareness of their duties as consultants on the part of patients and confidence in them on the part of physicians. As a consequence, the concept of responsible self-care should be integrated into the educational and training programs of all medical professionals, both doctors and pharmacists. At the same time, government campaigns are needed to improve health literacy among the population. Taking these steps will help improve the quality of healthcare while reducing the burden on healthcare facilities, provided tconsum, consumers are well-informed about responsible self-care and safe self-selection of over-the-counter drugs principles.”

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