Self-medication is an issue that is more than just a health problem
PHARMACIES are today so commonplace. They can be found in the High Street, shopping malls and other commercial centres. All manner of medicines are available over the counter. Naturally, a person suffering from minor ailments will opt for what is convenient rather than see the GP and fork out a fee costing more than the retail price for medicine because it includes charges for the doctor's consultation. After all, more often than not, the on-premise pharmacist is more than qualified to give competent advice regarding the medicines on sale. Nevertheless, the act of self-medication undoubtedly carries some measure of risk, especially when symptoms, seemingly mild, may belie a more serious medical condition. As such, the recent warning from the president of the Malaysian Medical Association should not be taken lightly. In the case of an employee replete with medical cover, a visit to the doctor should not pose a problem. For this reason, self-medication should be avoided as far as possible.
A visit to a regular doctor is unmistakably a good thing because one's medical history gains importance with age. In many European countries, for instance, the family doctor is the best friend anyone can have, health-wise. The good doctor helps arrest health afflictions from flaring up into life-threatening situations. The family doctor is the first buffer in preventive medicine, an approach to healthcare that reduces expenditure and relieves stress on hospitals.
In countries where healthcare is a public welfare service supported by a health insurance system, the family doctor is the rule. Unfortunately, the economics of such healthcare is too demanding on the public treasury. The queue at the clinics operated by the government and universities is long. That said, there is now the 1Malaysia clinic in urban areas, which makes a visit to the doctor painless as it is cheap, accessible and open to everyone. It is an important step towards developing a system of friendly and competent local family doctors. But until that happens, consulting a doctor other than those in government clinics is expensive compared with self-medication. Certainly, a sick person would always prefer to see a doctor even for the smallest of complaints. But as is with most cases when consumers have to make choices, patients will vote with their wallets. Of course, the doctor should be the first port of call for everyone feeling under the weather. But economics have to be taken into consideration when accounting for the popularity of self-medication.