The value of self-medication: summary of existing evidence

Medicines Management Collection
Journal Of Medical Economics
Publication date:
03 November 2017


AIM: The aim of this review was to identify the international evidence that is currently available on the economic value of self-care through responsible self-medication, in terms of the measures related to access to treatment, time, and productivity. METHODS: A targeted literature search was conducted for 1990-2016, including data gathered from members of the World Self-Medication Industry and searches on PubMed, EBSCOHost, and Google Scholar. Specific searches of individual drug classes known to be switched to non-prescription status in this period were also conducted. RESULTS: A total of 71 articles were identified, of which 17 (11 modeling studies, six retrospective analyses) were included in the review. Evidence from modeling studies and retrospective analyses of grouped data across a range of common conditions for which non-prescription medications are available in different countries/regions showed that the use of non-prescription products for the treatment of common conditions or for symptom management (e.g. allergies, chronic pain, migraine, vaginitis, gastrointestinal symptoms, or common cold symptoms) had considerable value to patients, payers, and employers alike in terms of cost savings and improved productivity. Potential benefits of self-medication were also identified in preventative healthcare strategies, such as those for cardiovascular health and osteoporosis. LIMITATIONS: This review was limited by a targeted, but non-systematic approach to literature retrieval, as well as the inclusion of unpublished reports/white papers and patient self-reported data. CONCLUSIONS: The evidence identified in this literature review shows that responsible, appropriate self-medication with non-prescription products can provide significant economic benefits for patients, employers, and healthcare systems worldwide.