I was in a store which had both a pharmacy and a mart. The store is owned by a pharmacist.
I was waiting behind someone who was being attended to when this man came in and began to talk to an attendant.
“Madam, I want drugs for newborn”, he said.
My ears perked up and I thought I didn’t hear right. Drugs for a newborn?
I moved in closer to hear better.
The attendant asked, “they did not give you prescription?”
“They did not o!”
To my horror, she went round the store and picked up a bottle of Ampiclox, Paracetamol and Abidec. I was shocked. For a start, paracetamol should NOT be given to babies less than 2 months and antibiotics without signs of infection leads to antibiotic resistance. I wanted to speak up so bad but you know how we are on matters like these. If I had said anything, I would have heard mutterings of me trying to spoil their business and so I had to contain myself.
When he went out, I followed him to his car. He got into the driver’s side and I noticed a woman, whom I presumed to be his wife at the passenger side and an older woman carrying a baby, I assumed she was the grandmother.
I introduced myself and told them that as far as the child was healthy, she just needed breast milk and love. They thanked me and I walked away. I hope they listened. If the child was given those medications, he/she was looking at the possibility of organ damage in the future.
Nigerian have this attitude towards medication. If they consult a doctor and they are not prescribed any medication, they begin to think “this doctor no know anything,” I have observed this in my nearly 20 years of practice.
Nigerians use medication because the medicine seller on the bus says it’s a cure for all ailments, they use it because the chemist says it is the best drug in the market, it is used because the packaging convinces them of the quick relief they will get. it is used because a friend, mother or relative swears by its efficacy! These are not good reasons to use medication and it could be dangerous.
For one, medication is not candy to be popped in and chewed. They are chemicals and always have side-effects. Before a doctor prescribes a medication, he/she has diagnosed your condition and knows that the advantages of using the medication for that condition, far outweighs the risks or disadvantages of not using it.
In the early days of my career, working as a new doctor for a multinational firm that provided free healthcare to its staff, I also noticed that members of staff came to the clinic on Saturdays with their well-dressed children and a list. The list would contain up to 10 drugs they wanted to collect. I was amazed that they expected me to just write it for them without a diagnosis and I refused to do so. So you see, this mentality has been with us for years, decades even.
Examples of wrong usage:
- Paracetamol to a newborn.
- Cough syrup to children less than 6 years
- Antibiotics for cold and cough
- Flagyll because you are having diarrhoea
- Alabukun because you had a stressful day.
- Antimalarial drugs because you feel feverish.
You might ask, are vitamins, supplements and traditional medicine in this category? Yes, they are. They are not approved for use under strict condition; the dosage, frequency standards and even potency of the active ingredients are not scientifically proven. Let’s not even begin to talk of side effects.
Dear Nigerians, medication is not food. That you find it easily available, does not mean you should self-medicate. Consult a healthcare professional and if you don’t trust his/her opinion, seek another.
Do not let a hundred naira or less bring you problems that would cost you millions in the future!
Written by DANG Doctor Oluwatosin Osikoya