The role of mainstream media in fuelling the COVID-19 drug misuse crises in Nigeria
The media is a useful tool for disseminating vital information like preventive measures and scientific research during the COVID19 pandemic.
At the moment there seems to be an increased risk of self-medication and drug misuse especially in countries where prescription only medicines could be bought without prescription. For instance,countries like Nigeria where patent medicines dealers who are meant to sell GSL medicines end up dispensing pharmacy only medicines and prescription only medicines. As soon as a new drug for managing COVID-19 is announced by mainstream media, people run off to the shops to buy these drugs, even people who have not tested positive for the coronavirus, indulge in self-medication in a bid to prevent contracting the virus.
I am worried about the recent announcement for Dexamethasone as a new drug for treating COVID 19. Information reaching me shows, following hours of announcing this drug by the media, some Nigerian residents have started trooping to their pharmacy, chemist and illegal drug dealers to buy dexamethasone tablets.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid, it has high glucocorticoid activity, and it should not be used without the guidance of a clinician. According to the Electronic Medicines Compendium (EMC), depending on the dose and duration of therapy, adrenocortical insufficiency caused by glucocorticoid therapy can continue for several months and in individual cases more than a year after cessation of therapy. Through immunosuppression, treatment with Dexamethasone can lead to an increased risk of bacterial, viral, parasitic, opportunistic and fungal infections. It can mask the symptoms of an existing or developing infection, thereby making a diagnosis more difficult. Latent infections, like tuberculosis or hepatitis B, can be reactivated.
Dexamethasone also has some side effects; the following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking dexamethasone:
· Increased appetite.
· Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
· Swelling in your ankles and feet (fluid retention)
· Muscle weakness.
· Impaired wound healing.
· Increased blood sugar levels
If only the media understood the fact that prescription only medicines could be bought without prescription in some countries, they would thread carefully and choose appropriate wording when announcing potential drugs for COVID-19 treatment.
It’s the duty of the Ministry of health and drug regulatory bodies of those countries where potent medication could be bought in the market like sweets to continue to create awareness, educate the general public on the dangers of self-medication, drug misuse and drug abuse. They must not relent in their efforts of managing drug distribution/regulation.
My advice to people living in countries where you could buy prescription medicines without prescription is this:
Do not run off to buy the latest drug announced for COVID-19 treatment.
This drug is a corticosteroid and should only be taken if prescribed by a clinician.
Please do not indulge in medication misuse and abuse. It could lead to adverse effects or even death
All medicines are poisons, the dose makes the difference!