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Self-medication of upper gastrointestinal symptoms: a community pharmacy study

Els Mehuys (UGent) , Lucas Van Bortel (UGent) , Leen De Bolle (UGent) , Inge Van Tongelen (UGent) , Jean Paul Remon (UGent) and Danny De Looze (UGent)
(2009) ANNALS OF PHARMACOTHERAPY. 43(5). p.890-898
Author
Organization
Abstract
BACKGROUND: Upper gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are a common reason for self-treatment with over-the-counter (OTC) medication. However, data are scarce on the typology of GI complaints for which individuals seek self-medication and, more importantly, on the prevalence of alarm symptoms in this population. OBJECTIVE: To investigate: (1) the nature of GI symptoms that people intend to self-medicate, (2) prevalence of alarm symptoms, (3) adherence to referral advice given by the pharmacist, and (4) self-reported efficacy and frequency of use of OTC medication for minor complaints. METHODS: This descriptive study was performed in 63 community pharmacies. Participants (N = 592, aged 18-82 y) completed a questionnaire to assess symptom characteristics and previous medical consulting. Based on this information, the pharmacist referred subjects to a physician or advised self-treatment. Four weeks later, participants were presented a follow-up questionnaire evaluating their adherence to referral advice or efficacy of self-treatment. RESULTS: The most frequently reported GI symptoms were burning retrosternal discomfort (49.2%), acid regurgitation (53.2%), and bothersome postprandial fullness (51.2%). At least one alarm symptom was present in 22.4% of the individuals, with difficulty in swallowing being the most prevalent (15.4%). Although 21% of the customers were referred, only 51.7% of these contacted a physician. Almost all (95.1%) of the remaining customers who were advised self-treatment reported symptom relief with the OTC drug obtained. CONCLUSIONS: Mild GI symptoms will mostly resolve with self-treatment. Yet, the value of pharmacist counseling on OTC treatment should be recognized, as community pharmacists can play an important role in distinguishing symptoms that warrant further medical examination.
Keywords
CARE, IMPACT, DISORDERS, HEARTBURN, dyspepsia, antacid, self-treatment, upper gastrointestinal symptoms, nonprescription drugs, GASTROESOPHAGEAL-REFLUX, H-2-RECEPTOR ANTAGONISTS, GENERAL-PRACTICE, DYSPEPSIA, PREVALENCE, THE-COUNTER AVAILABILITY

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Chicago
Mehuys, Els, Lucas Van Bortel, Leen De Bolle, Inge Van Tongelen, Jean Paul Remon, and Danny De Looze. 2009. “Self-medication of Upper Gastrointestinal Symptoms: a Community Pharmacy Study.” Annals of Pharmacotherapy 43 (5): 890–898.
APA
Mehuys, Els, Van Bortel, L., De Bolle, L., Van Tongelen, I., Remon, J. P., & De Looze, D. (2009). Self-medication of upper gastrointestinal symptoms: a community pharmacy study. ANNALS OF PHARMACOTHERAPY, 43(5), 890–898.
Vancouver
1.
Mehuys E, Van Bortel L, De Bolle L, Van Tongelen I, Remon JP, De Looze D. Self-medication of upper gastrointestinal symptoms: a community pharmacy study. ANNALS OF PHARMACOTHERAPY. 2009;43(5):890–8.
MLA
Mehuys, Els, Lucas Van Bortel, Leen De Bolle, et al. “Self-medication of Upper Gastrointestinal Symptoms: a Community Pharmacy Study.” ANNALS OF PHARMACOTHERAPY 43.5 (2009): 890–898. Print.
@article{686505,
  abstract     = {BACKGROUND: Upper gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are a common reason for self-treatment with over-the-counter (OTC) medication. However, data are scarce on the typology of GI complaints for which individuals seek self-medication and, more importantly, on the prevalence of alarm symptoms in this population.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate: (1) the nature of GI symptoms that people intend to self-medicate, (2) prevalence of alarm symptoms, (3) adherence to referral advice given by the pharmacist, and (4) self-reported efficacy and frequency of use of OTC medication for minor complaints.
METHODS: This descriptive study was performed in 63 community pharmacies. Participants (N = 592, aged 18-82 y) completed a questionnaire to assess symptom characteristics and previous medical consulting. Based on this information, the pharmacist referred subjects to a physician or advised self-treatment. Four weeks later, participants were presented a follow-up questionnaire evaluating their adherence to referral advice or efficacy of self-treatment.
RESULTS: The most frequently reported GI symptoms were burning retrosternal discomfort (49.2\%), acid regurgitation (53.2\%), and bothersome postprandial fullness (51.2\%). At least one alarm symptom was present in 22.4\% of the individuals, with difficulty in swallowing being the most prevalent (15.4\%). Although 21\% of the customers were referred, only 51.7\% of these contacted a physician. Almost all (95.1\%) of the remaining customers who were advised self-treatment reported symptom relief with the OTC drug obtained.
CONCLUSIONS: Mild GI symptoms will mostly resolve with self-treatment. Yet, the value of pharmacist counseling on OTC treatment should be recognized, as community pharmacists can play an important role in distinguishing symptoms that warrant further medical examination.},
  author       = {Mehuys, Els and Van Bortel, Lucas and De Bolle, Leen and Van Tongelen, Inge and Remon, Jean Paul and De Looze, Danny},
  issn         = {1060-0280},
  journal      = {ANNALS OF PHARMACOTHERAPY},
  keyword      = {CARE,IMPACT,DISORDERS,HEARTBURN,dyspepsia,antacid,self-treatment,upper gastrointestinal symptoms,nonprescription drugs,GASTROESOPHAGEAL-REFLUX,H-2-RECEPTOR ANTAGONISTS,GENERAL-PRACTICE,DYSPEPSIA,PREVALENCE,THE-COUNTER AVAILABILITY},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {5},
  pages        = {890--898},
  title        = {Self-medication of upper gastrointestinal symptoms: a community pharmacy study},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1345/aph.1L647},
  volume       = {43},
  year         = {2009},
}

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