Self-Medication Practices Among Health Care Professional Students in a Tertiary Care Hospital, Pune

Manjusha Sajith1, *, Sruthi M. Suresh2, Naveen T. Roy2, Dr. Atmaram Pawar1
1 Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Poona College of Pharmacy, Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Poona College of Pharmacy, Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Erandwane, Pune, Maharashtra, India

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© 2017 Sajith et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Poona College of Pharmacy, Pune, Maharashtra, India; Tel: +91-9730080959; E-mail:



Self-medication practice is common among health care professionals due to their professional exposure to drugs and knowledge of treatment of their disease.


The aim was to assess self-medication practice among medical, pharmacy, and nursing students in a tertiary care hospital, Pune. Method: A cross-sectional survey was carried out over a period of three months. A self-administered questionnaire was used for data collection.


A total of 318 students participated in the survey; among them106 were medical, 106 were nurses and 106 were Pharmacy students. Out of the total participants, 52.5% were females. Among them, 280 (87.5%) were practicing self- medication. Most drugs for self-medication were obtained from the pharmacy or drug shops, and the most commonly used drugs were non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs(81.2%) and antipyretics (67.6%) and antibiotics (35.0%). However, 112 (35.0%) of health care professional students had received antibiotics without medical prescription in the past few months. Common reported illnesses were fever and chills (62.5%) followed by headache (40.0%) and common cold(35.0%).The main reasons for self- medication was that their knowledge about drugs and diseases helped them (67%) and their health problem was not serious(65%). 40 (12.0%) were against self -medication practice and their reasons were fear of misdiagnosis of illness and adverse effect of drugs.


Our study concluded that self-medication was practiced with a range of drugs among health care professional students. Educating the students and creating awareness among them may decrease the chance of self-medication practice.

Keywords: Self-medication, Health, Drugs, Disease, Treatment, Tertiary, Self-medication, Inflammatory drugs, Antipyretics, Antibiotics, Health care.


According to WHO, self-Medication is defined as “the selection and use of medicines by individuals to treat self-recognized illnesses or symptoms”. It involves obtaining medications without a prescription, taking medicines on the advice of pharmacists, relative or friends without consulting medical professional, sharing medicines with family members /friends or consuming leftover medicines stored at home [1]. Self-medication can help treat minor ailments that do not require medical consultation and hence reduce the pressure on medical services particularly in the deprived countries with inadequate health care resources. In a number of developing countries, many drugs are dispensed Over The Counter (OTC) without medical direction [2].

Use of medication without medical guidance is inappropriate because using insufficient dosages or incorrect or unnecessary drugs increases wastage of resources, resistance of pathogens, drug dependence and causes serious health hazards such as adverse reaction and prolonged suffering [3]. Antimicrobial resistance is a current problem worldwide particularly in developing countries where antibiotics are often available without a prescription [4].

The prevalence of self- medication practices is alarmingly high in health-care students, despite knowing the consequences and potential risks. The reasons for self-medication practice among health care professionals are easy availability of drugs, professional exposure to drugs and knowledge of treatment of the diseases. Another reason for non-prescription drugs amongst youth is the exposure to media and advertisements.

Survey of self-medication among student population is important because this population represents a segment of highly-educated members of the society that have better access to healthcare-related information. Of particular significance is research on self-medication among the population of medical students, because they are the future generation that will have the right to prescribe drugs and to work on healthcare education. Additionally, their attitudes towards pharmacotherapy could affect the way they will prescribe medication in the future [5]. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to access the self-medication practices among Health care professional students in a tertiary care hospital.


A cross-sectional observational survey was carried out among medical, pharmacy and nursing students of a tertiary care hospital, Pune for a period of three months with sample size of 318. A convenience sample of 318 participants was recruited from the students enrolled in medical, pharmacy and nursing courses with a confidence interval of 95% and margin of error of 5.5%. In order to have equal distribution, 106 medical students, 106 pharmacy students and 106 nursing students were included in the study. The study protocol was approved by the college research committee. The objectives were explained to the students involved in the study and their verbal consent was obtained. All the participants ensured confidentiality. The data were collected through self -administered pretested questionnaire prepared in English. The study questionnaire was opted from similar study conducted previously by Zafar SN et al. [6]. The self-administered questionnaire was validated by research committee and faculty of Clinical Pharmacy Department, Bharati Hospital & Research Centre, Pune. Data collection sheet consists of two sections; the first section was about demographic information and characteristics (like age, gender, level of education, college and year of study, etc.), while, the second section had questions like number of drugs used in the last three months, practicing self- medication yes or no, presence or absence of medical indication, with and without prescription, adverse effect, sources of information. Pilot study was carried out in 36 students. During the pilot study, the participants were responded to all questions without confusions. Reliability scale evaluation was performed and good Cronbach's alpha (α = 0.78) score was achieved. Descriptive data analysis was conducted and reported as frequencies and percentage to identify the demographic of patients, classes of drugs used for self- medication and reasons for self-medication.


Out of 318 health science students, 88.0% were practicing self-medication whereas, 12.0% denied for taking medications on their own. Out of 318 participants, 52.5% were female. It was also found that, 84.0% of the students participated were less than 25 years, and 16.0% were more than 25 years. Other than Allopathic medicines, students were also using homeopathic (7.0%) and ayurvedic drugs (9.0%) for self- medication (Table 1).

Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the participants.
Socio demographic variables Number of students Percentage (%)
Age (years)
Less than 25 268 84.0
More than 25 50 16.0
Male 152 47.5
Female 166 52.5
Educational status
Medical 106 33.3
Pharmacy 106 33.3
Nursing 106 33.3

Figure (1) shows the reason for self-medication which showed that majority of students (67.0%) were taking self-medication because they were aware of the symptoms and their treatment and 65.0% were practicing self-medication because of minor ailments.

Fig. (1). Distribution of subjects according to reason for self-medication.

Table 2 lists the illnesses for which the students used self-medication. Common illness for self-medication was fever with chills (62.5%), followed by headache (40.0%), cough and common cold (35.0%).

Table 2. Illness (indications) for self-medication.
Illness Frequency Percentage (%)
Fever & chills 198 62.5
Pain 132 40.0
Cough & common cold 112 35.0
Diarrhea 104 33.0
Constipation 90 28.0
Allergy 82 26.0
Gastric pain 74 23.0
Fungal/ microbial infection 48 15.0
Others 26 8.0

Table 3 indicates the types of medications (drugs) used in self-medication practice among the respondents. The most common class of drugs used was found to be analgesics (81.2%), anti-pyretic (67.6%) and anti-inflammatory (41.0%).

Table 3. Drugs used for self-medications.
Drugs used for self-medication Frequency Percentage (%)
Analgesics 258 81.2
Anti-pyretics 214 67.6
Anti-inflammatory 130 41.0
Antibiotics 112 35.0
Antacid 104 33.0
Laxatives 86 27.0
Anti-histamines 82 26.0
Nutritional supplement 50 16.0
Energy supplement (vitamins/minerals) 42 13.0
Topical applications 24 7.3

Figure (2) represents the distribution of self-medication among health care students in which most number of students who were on self- medication was medical students (34.2%), followed by pharmacy and nursing (33.0%) students.

Fig. (2). Demographic distribution of Self-medication among health care students.

Table 4 indicates the sources of drug information from which the most common was Reading books for medical students(30.0%) and for pharmacy and nursing students, the sources were family, friends and previous medical expertise (23.0%) and (27.0%) Advertisement and Internet were also the sources of information for the students.

Table 4. Sources of information for self-medication.
Sources Medical (%) Pharmacy (%) Nursing (%)
Family & friends 19 23 27
Previous medical expertise 23 23 27
Reading books 30 21 20
Advertisements 11 9 10
Internet 17 24 16

Out of 318 participants, 12% participants denied taking medications on their own. 78.6% mentioned the fear of adverse effect as the main reason while, 36 .7% did not take self-medication because of the fear of wrong diagnosis and 13.1% mentioned other reasons (Table 5).

Table 5. Reason for not taking self-medications.
Reason Number of students Percentage (%)
Risk of adverse reaction 29 78.6
Risk of wrong diagnosis 14 36.7
Other reasons 05 13.1

30.0% of health care students practicing self-medication in our study were not aware of the adverse effect of the drugs which they were using (Table 6).

Table 6. Frequency of knowledge about Adverse Reaction among students using self-medication.
Characteristics Number of students with self medication (n=278) Percentage (%)
Aware about Adverse effect of drugs 84 30.0%


In our study, we observed that 88.0% of the students were practicing self-medication, which is similar to a study conducted in Karachi [6], Malaysia [7] and Serbia [8], where self-medication was reported to be 76.0%, 77.6%, & 79.9% respectively. The incidence of self-medication practice reported by James H et al. [9] in Bahrain was 44.0% whereas, a study conducted in Karnataka [10] revealed 53.0% of students practicing self- medications. The high prevalence of self-medication in India is due to easy accessibility to OTC medicines without prescriptions. A study conducted by Banerjee et al. in west Bengalw [11] showed that female students were found using self-medication more than males, which when compared to our study, showed similar results. The percentage of self-medication among female students in our study was 52.5%. The illnesses for which students were practicing self-medication were fever & chills (62.5%) followed by pain, headache, cough and common cold. Our results are similar to the study conducted by Abay SN et al. inEthiopia [12]. The drugs which were frequently used for self- medication in our study were Analgesics (81.2%) followed by Anti-pyretics(67.6%) and Anti- inflammatory (41.0%); these were the drugs which were used in high frequency; moreover, a study in karachi6 also showed similar results. OTC medicines are safe and useful for treating minor ailments. Despite the significant benefits of self-medication, there are some inherent risks as well. High prevalence of self-medication with antibiotics results in human pathogens resistance. In our study, 35.0% students were taking antibiotics without prescription. Many studies in developing countries showed the use of antibiotics to be high, as these drugs are easily available without prescription [6, 13]. A reason for self- medication reported in our study was that they knew how to treat minor ailments. These findings resemble with another study by Sharif et al. (only last name of author must be mentioned) conducted in Sharjah [14]. Another study in Oman showed reasons like previous expertise and minor ailment. Even after studying about the drugs and its usage pattern in detail, 30.0% of health care students in our study were not aware of the adverse effect of the drugs which they were using.

Also, our study found that 2.0% of the students experienced adverse reaction, whereas, in another study conducted by Badiger et al. (only last name of author must be mentioned) in Mangalore, the percentage was 5.0% [15], for which they visited physician or discontinued the drugs. The sources of information in our study were reading books, Internet and family- friends, which when compared to a study by Pragna Patel et al. [16] in Gujarat showed similar results. In our study, we also found that 60.5%of the students who were practicing self- medication suggested to their friends and family.


In our study, we found that the use of self-medication among the health care students was high. The drugs which were greatly used among the students were analgesics, antipyretics and anti-inflammatory for the conditions such as fever and chills, headache and common cold. It is important for the health care students to understand the negativity of self-medication, and they must accept to enter the role of patient. Because of self-medication, lots of resources are also being wasted due to high usage of antibiotics that leads to resistance to pathogens, side effects and harm to the society. Educating the students and creating awareness among them may decrease the chance of adverse effect, therefore, health authorities should work together for the better quality of life.


Authors took approval from institutional research committee & consent was taken from participants.


No Animals/Humans were used for studies that are base of this research.


The authors confirm that this article content has no conflict of interest.


Declared none.


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