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Consumer judgement and risk perception on availability of over-the-counter-drugs.

Brabers, A.E.M., Dijk, L. van, Bouvy, M.L., Jong, J.D. de. Consumer judgement and risk perception on availability of over-the-counter-drugs. European Journal of Public Health: 2011, 21(suppl. 1) 129. Abstract. 4th European Public Health Conference: 'Public Health and Walfare - Welfare Development and Public Health' 9-12 november 2011, Copenhagen.
Background: Over-the-counter (OTC)-drugs are available without a doctor’s prescription. Whereas this is convenient for consumers, it also makes consumers responsible for appropriate and safe use. European countries differ considerably when it comes to the availability of OTC-drugs. In the Netherlands, the availability of OTC-drugs changed in 2007. A limited number of OTC-drugs can now be sold outside pharmacies and chemistries, mainly in supermarkets. This had led to a discussion on whether consumers are aware of potential risks of inappropriate use of OTC-medication. The objective of this study was to assess consumer judgement and risk perception on availability of OTC-drugs in the Netherlands. Methods: A questionnaire was sent in June 2010 to 1422 members of the Dutch Health Care Consumer Panel, a cross-section of the Dutch population. 972 members of the panel (response 68%) returned the questionnaire. Questions were aimed at measuring the judgement of consumers on the availability of OTC-drugs as well as their opinion on safety profiles of OTC-painkillers. Results: The majority (87%) of the consumers used OTC-drugs in the last five years. The far most used OTC-drugs are painkillers (97%). Consumers are quite ‘conservative’ when judging safety profiles of painkillers. Regarding four of six safety profiles, the majority of the consumers stated that painkillers with such a safety profile should only be provided at pharmacies (while now most of them are available in supermarkets). This applied most (69%) for the safety profile ‘safe at normal use, but potential serious side effects when used in combination with certain prescription drugs’. Only 11% of the consumers think that others know how to apply OTC-drugs safely. They trust their own capabilities much better: 65% of the consumers agree with the proposition ‘I know exactly how to use OTCdrugs in a safe way’. Currently, additional analyses are being performed. Conclusion: Consumers are convinced of being aware of how to use OTCdrugs in a safe way. The question is, however, whether this is true. Therefore, a more proactive attitude of pharmacies and chemistries regarding providing information is necessary to make consumers aware of the potential risks of inappropriate use of OTC-medication. (aut. ref.)
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