Prescription for COVID-19 by non-medical professionals during the pandemic in Colombia: a cross-sectional study

Maria Jose Nino-Orrego, Daniela Baracaldo-Santamaría, Claudia Patricia Ortiz, Heyde Patricia Zuluaga, Sthefany Alejandra Cruz-Becerra, Franklin Soler, Andrés M Pérez-Acosta, Daniel Ricardo Delgado, Carlos-Alberto Calderon-Ospina

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Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the behavior of self-medication (SM). Given the massive release of misleading information during the pandemic, some pharmacies recommend drugs such as ivermectin, azithromycin, and hydroxychloroquine that are not useful for preventing or treating COVID-19 and could expose patients to unnecessary adverse drug reactions (ADRs), drug-drug interactions (DDIs), disease masking, and antibiotic resistance.

Rationale: SM with drugs advertised for COVID-19 can have consequences, and people should be aware of approved uses, potential contraindications, and ADRs. Thus, the aim of this study was to know the drug therapies including natural products and homeopathic drugs offered by Colombian pharmaceutical establishments for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, as well as the information provided on the safe use of the product.

Methods: An observational, cross-sectional mystery shopping study was carried out to determine the pharmaceutical alternatives for the management of COVID-19 offered by pharmaceutical establishments (drugstores, pharmacies, homeopathic pharmacies, and nutritional supplements stores) in Colombia, and information related to the safe use of the product. The study included 482 pharmaceutical establishments from 16 Colombian departments. Data collection was done through telephone calls to each of the establishments following an interview protocol pretending to be a patient who presents symptoms related to COVID-19.

Results: About 57.3% (276) of the establishments recommended a product for the treatment of COVID-19 infection, 66.6% (321) asked whether the caller had COVID-19 symptoms and what they are, and 44.2% (213) suggested taking a COVID-19 test. Of 59 drugs suggested by pharmacies, the most recommended were azithromycin, ivermectin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and ASA (aspirin). From the establishments that recommended a product, dosage was indicated in 85.5% (236) of the pharmaceutical establishments and 14.5% (40) of the establishments reported the most common adverse effects of this substance. About 9.4% (26) of the establishments reported possible interactions of the recommended drugs and substances with food, beverages, or supplements.Conclusion: Pharmaceutical establishments in Colombia seem to have significantly contributed to self-medication for COVID-19 in Colombia during the pandemic. This behavior is inappropriate, since the mild forms of the disease do not have a specific treatment.

Plain Language Summary: Self-medication induced by pharmaceutical establishments in Colombia during the COVID-19 pandemic Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the behavior of self-medication (SM). Given the massive release of misleading information during the pandemic, some pharmacies recommend drugs such as ivermectin, azithromycin, hydroxychloroquine among others, which are not useful for preventing or treating COVID-19 and could expose patients to unnecessary side effects and interactions with other medications. People should be aware of the approved and non-approved uses, and potential side effects of these drugs. Rationale: The aim of this study was to know the drugs, including natural products and homeopathic drugs, offered by Colombian pharmaceutical establishments for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, as well as the information provided on the safe use of the product. Methods: The study was done using the mystery shopping method, collecting data through telephone calls to each of the establishments by a trained individual pretending to be a patient with COVID-19 symptoms. The study included 482 pharmaceutical establishments from 16 Colombian departments. Results: Of 59 drugs suggested by pharmacies, the most recommended were azithromycin, ivermectin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. The recommended dose was indicated in 85.5% (236) of the pharmaceutical establishments, and 14.5% (40) of them reported the most common adverse effects of the recommended product. About 9.4% (26) of the establishments reported possible interactions of the recommended drugs and substances with food, beverages, or supplements. Conclusion: The majority of the pharmaceutical establishments included in the study promoted inadequate self-medication for COVID-19 in Colombia during the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Drug Safety
Volume13
DOIs
StatePublished - May 24 2022

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