Self-medication practices among adult population attending community pharmacies in Malaysia: an exploratory study

  • Mohamed Azmi HassaliEmail author
  • Asrul Akmal Shafie
  • Harith Al-Qazaz
  • Jayabalan Tambyappa
  • Subish Palaian
  • Vidhya Hariraj
Research Article


Objective To assess the prevalence of self-medication among adults in an urban setting and to identify any factors contributing to self-medication in relation to consumer characteristics. Setting The study was carried out in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Methods A cross-sectional study using a self administered questionnaire including adults above 21 years old as an exit survey was conducted in Kuala Lumpur. Main outcome measures Number of medications taken in a day by participants, source of medication for the treatment of minor illnesses among participants, common illnesses chosen for self-medication by participants, and the sources of information of participants. Results Of 314 participants, 62.7% had taken at least one medication in the past week without prescription and 62.7% believed that over the counter medicines were just as effective as those prescribed by doctors. 69.4% would seek a healthcare professional’s advice before purchasing any medication and 86.9% would consult a pharmacist prior to buying medication from the pharmacy. Only 86% checked the expiry dates on medications and 54.5% reported keeping leftover medication. Conclusions Self-medication practice is prevalent in Kuala Lumpur but some practice might be harmful. Education on appropriate use of self-medication need to be emphasized in order to ensure quality use of medicines.


Adults Medication Pharmacist Self-medication 



The authors wish to thank all the participants who provided their valuable responses in answering to the questionnaire.



Conflicts of interest



  1. 1.
    WHO. The role of pharmacist in self-care and self-medication. Report of the 4th WHO Consultative Group on the role of pharmacist. The Hague, The Netherlands, 26–28 August 1998. WHO/Dap/98.13. World Health Organization, Geneva 1998.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    World Self-Medication Industry. Available at Accessed 10 Feb 2011.
  3. 3.
    Wertheimer A, Seradell J. A discussion paper on self care and its implications for pharmacists. Pharm World Sci. 2008;30:309–15.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Pawaskar MD, Balkrishnan R. Switching from prescription to over-the-counter medications; a consumer and managed care perspective. Manag Care Interface. 2007;20(1):42–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Working group on drug classification: definition and criteria to apply to OTC drugs. Pan American Health Organization, regional office of the World Health Organisation. Available at Accessed 10 Feb 2011.
  6. 6.
    Bradley C, Blenkinsopp A. Over the counter drugs: the future for self medication. BMJ. 1996;312:835–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Abosede OA. Self-medication: an important aspect of primary health care. Soc Sci Med. 1984;19:699–703.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Sample Size Calculator by Raosoft, Inc. Availabe at
  9. 9.
    Kaufman DW, Kelly JP, Rosenberg L, Anderson TE, Mitchell AA. Recent patterns of medication use in the ambulatory adult population of the United States. The slone survey. J Am Med Assoc. 2002; 287: 337–44.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mitsi G, Jelastopulu E, Basiaris H, Skoutelis A, Gogos C. Patterns of antibiotic use among adults and parents in the community: a questionnaire-based survey in a Greek urban population. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2005;25:439–43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Yousef AM, Al-Bakri AG, Bustanji Y, Wazaify M. Self-medication patterns in Amman, Jordan. Pharm World Sci. 2008;30:24–30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Suleman S, Katsela A, Mekonnen Z. Assessment of self-medication practices in Assendabo town, Jimma zone, southwestern Ethiopia. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2009;5:76–81.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    British Market Research Bureau (BRMB). Everyday health care study of self-medication in Britain October 1997.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Chui WK, Li SC. Advice-giving on self-medication: perspectives of community pharmacists and consumers in Singapore. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2005;30:225–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ministry of Health Malaysia: National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau, Ministry of Health Malaysia. [].
  16. 16.
    Indermitte J, Reber D, Beutler M, Bruppacher R, Hersberger KE. Prevalence and patient awareness of selected potential drug interactions with self-medication. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2007;32:149–59.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohamed Azmi Hassali
    • 1
    Email author
  • Asrul Akmal Shafie
    • 1
  • Harith Al-Qazaz
    • 2
  • Jayabalan Tambyappa
    • 1
  • Subish Palaian
    • 1
  • Vidhya Hariraj
    • 2
  1. 1.Discipline of Social and Administrative Pharmacy, School of Pharmaceutical SciencesUniversiti Sains MalaysiaMindenMalaysia
  2. 2.Discipline of Clinical Pharmacy, School of Pharmaceutical SciencesUniversiti Sains MalaysiaMindenMalaysia

Personalised recommendations