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The Likelihood of Seeking Information on OTC Medicines



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Over-the-counter medicines have been reported as safe medicines by Canadians, yet there are concerns about their misuse and adverse drug reactions. Previous evidence shows that users of these medicines obtain information from sources such as professionals, relatives, friends, news and print media, and product labels. However, little is known about how likely and extensively consumers would seek information relative to other consumer products. The study purposed to explore the likelihood and extent of seeking information about OTC medicines relative to common consumer products, as a surrogate of the importance consumers place on such medication. The study was cross-sectional and descriptive in design. Common consumer products (10 non-drug and five OTC medicines) and 15 OTC medicines were selected for comparative purposes. Saskatchewan residents were asked to rate these products on a scale of 1 to 10 for the likelihood and extent of information-searching and product familiarity. Impressions of effectiveness and safety of OTC medicines were also provided on the same scale. A scale was developed to measure consumer Propensity to Self-Medicate. Test-retest reliability was estimated using Pearson correlation coefficients (r), Intraclass Correlation Coefficients (ICC) and Paired Sample t-tests. Descriptive and inferential analyses of the findings were undertaken. A total of 575 responses were gathered, for a response rate of 19.2 percent. The mean age of respondents was 63.0 years and 61.6 percent were female. The likelihood respondents will search for information about OTC medicines had a similar rating to common consumer products, ranking less than televisions, coffee makers, and bike helmets, but more than body lotion, sunglasses, and red wine. Product familiarity ranged from 5.8 for headache medicines down to 3.9 for red wine (10-point scale). A moderate rating was given to the perception of safety and effectiveness for the 15 OTC medicines. Product effectiveness ranged from 7.3 for headache medicines to Athlete’s Foot creams at 5.1. Product safety for adult cough syrups was slightly higher than such products for children. Factors motivating self-medication among respondents are associated with their perception on Purchase Involvement, Self-Efficacy, Awareness of Care Needed during Self-Medication, and Perceived Usefulness of OTC Medications. The tendency to self-medicate was higher among women and the elderly. Given the potential for OTC medicines to help resolve symptoms, but also do harm, sufficient care must be undertaken when deciding to use one. While the likelihood to search for information on OTC medicines was similar to rather mundane consumer products, it is too early to consider the two groups as possessing similar levels of importance to the public. But it is concerning. There is a plethora of information currently available to consumers on such medicines; motivating them to access it may need attention. The development of a Propensity to Self-Medicate scale was exploratory and novel, and may be relevant in future research for different population settings and contexts



self medication, self care, over the counter drugs, information seeking behavior



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Pharmacy and Nutrition




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