The first thing that might come into your mind while reading the title of this article, are we trying to make doctors out of patients? Well the answer to this is no, we are not trying to make patients doctors but are just talking about creating an awareness.
Well some may immediately say, we are aware enough and even know which medicine to take at times of fever and headache. Some are even more educated and know the names of two to three salts with their functionality. Nobody doubts the knowledge of many educated people of the society. However, the question is do you know the side effects of these drugs?
Why am I constantly focusing on knowledge of the side effects? It is because one may know the name of the salts and brand name of the medicine to take during some of the common ailments. But if you do not know the side effects, you may end up killing someone. This someone can be you or your dear one. I do not wish to scare you on this but get you to think on the potential circumstance that may not be what you intended to.
Even in the developing world there are doctors who are less aware of the side effects of medicine on their patients. This is an alarming situation as the one who treats has very little know how about the adverse effects that may occur by taking the prescribed drug.
The companies do mention the side effects into the leaflets provided with the medicines but how often do we read it? Again the answer to this will be not very often. This is the most common practice followed by all of us. We trust the brand name and the doctor blindly and don’t even think twice before popping in that drug.
Ok! Ok! So we all are ignorant?
Yes! We all are and this ignorance is not bliss.
We require paying attention to the common side effects of the drugs we take and at the same time we need to inculcate in self the habit to report any different effect we observe not only on self but on people near to us. Here are few pointers which highlight the importance of knowing drugs side effects:
1. Helps Save Lives- Various reports throughout the world show that millions of people die annually due to drugs side effects combining both prescribed and illegal intake. The developed countries keep the track of the causes of the number of deaths but the developing countries do not have any reported data to show the possible causes. The common causes of death are drug overdose or occurrence of allergic reactions among the patients. When a patient is aware of the drug he is taking and possible side effects, he will also be aware about the possible remediation in cases of emergency. This can save many lives which are lost on their way to reaching the hospital.
2. Helps in Drug Development- Pharmacovigilance the science of reporting the side effects forms an important part of overall drug development cycle. Also, there is very little awareness about it among the patients. The doctors and other hospital staffs are also rarely been trained into it. Now the companies are realizing the potential of drug side effect reporting into developing new drugs with minimal side effects.
3. Helps in Minimizing Drug Abuse- When life of the patients and people is at stake there is no compromising on it. There are people who tend to take medicines even without prescription from the doctor. They decide their own dose and even sometime stop the medication in between. This causes severe cases of drug abuse and threat to their own lives. The most familiar case is of antibiotics which has lead to development of multiple drug resistance among the microbes causing severe health related issues.
4. Helps In Proper Implementation of Regulations- The regulatory agencies always cry about shortage of resources into proper implementation of the regulations. A well aware patient knows his rights and understands the importance of drug safety to his life. He plays the supporting role to the government and forcing companies to abide by the norms of safety. A well educated patient means companies cannot mismatch what they say and what the product is, which ensures bettering the overall healthcare system.
Another important question that arises is will the patients self educate them and understand its importance? May be at least few of them will but not all will do it until it’s made mandatory. Here are few steps needed to create Patient Awareness:
1. Government Initiatives- The governments throughout the world have the primary responsibility of taking the initiatives to educate its people on the various health related issues. The governments need to implement the schemes which help its citizens to understand drugs side effects and indiscriminate usage of medicines even when not needed.
2. Educational Institutes Play Their Part- Right from the junior to high schools and up to colleges to universities; they are the centre of building the future of the world. In any society these educational institutions form the place where people spend most of their time before entering into the professional life. Easily through competitions and social awareness campaigns educational institutes can train their students into the knowledge of drug side effects. The advantage of educating the students is that they also educate their parents who are busy in their daily chores.
3. Hospitals and Healthcare Service Providers by Information Sharing- Probably the best fitting people who can create awareness about drug side effects are the people who provide the healthcare services. Hospitals and other healthcare providers have all the data of their patients who are suffering due to drugs related complications. They can share these data into the publications and prepare special posters which aware their patients and staff together.
4. Patients and Doctors Forums- The Patients themselves can come together and form a forum sharing important information regarding the drugs and their side effects. This way they will be educating each other on different types of medicines and diseases. Doctors can also join into these groups or forums sharing their expert advice on the drugs and what to do in case of any sever side effect. Starting a discussion on the social groups can help more people getting involved into the awareness.
5. Parents to Children- Drug abuse has become one of the most common nuisances into the society. This is spoiling the lives of the children. At homes parents can give some time to educate their children into the bad effects of taking drugs and also into reporting it to the concerned authorities when they see someone indulged into it or selling them illegally. They should inculcate the good habit of always consulting the doctor for any medicine and immediate first step to protect from severe side effects.
6. Global Forums Create Awareness Campaigns- The World organizations like WHO has been one of the premier organizations in the world which is running various health related projects throughout the world. The aid provided by them is helping many underdeveloped and developing countries to put their healthcare framework together. There are many organizations that have been taking up the responsibilities of educating people globally about the health issues. Thus the agenda of adding information on knowing side effects of drugs and their benefits will help spreading the word at a very fast pace.
7. Corporate Responsibility- The corporate always spends some amount of their earning into the social causes. They can come together to organize events and awareness campaigns which highlights the problems associated with the intake of wrong medicine or indiscriminate use of the drugs.
Conclusion- In the digital world where even healthcare is going digital and mobile, the campaigns to create awareness is also lot easier through websites, social networking sites and applications. The only requirement is will to get educated and understand the need for a safer healthcare system. It is only possible through the joint efforts of every person in the society. This will ultimately help save millions of life globally and develop new drugs.