Background: The large number of medicines available on the shelves of pharmacies and the aggressive marketing strategies used by pharmaceutical companies make it difficult to choose over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. This is why the provision and dissemination of reliable, objective information is needed to support informed decision-making and to improve public health.
Objectives: The objective of this pilot study was to examine consumers' knowledge and their attitudes to the problem of obtaining and using information when choosing OTC medications, to provide a rationale for interventions aimed at improving the use of medicines.
Methods: We conducted a survey of 168 people (117 women and 51 men) as face-to-face interviews and an online survey. The questionnaire included 10 questions (three open and seven closed). The majority of respondents belonged to the middle and older age groups: 19 to 44 years (74%) and 45 to 59 years (13%). Thirty-five per cent of those surveyed were health workers.
Results: For 55% of respondents the choice of OTC medications in the pharmacy caused difficulties. The main difficulties related to the choice of medicines were lack of knowledge about the efficacy (48%) and safety (29%) of medicines. The sources of information that consumers used to select medicines were the doctor's prescription (43%), advice from the pharmacist (27%), "I am a doctor myself" (11%), Internet (31%), "advice of friends and acquaintances" (18%), "advertisements" (5%) and "other" (5%). Forty-four per cent of respondents knew about Cochrane, but only 6% of these were not health workers.
The need for additional information about medicines was noted by 79% of respondents. The Internet (websites, social networks, online seminars, 55%), e-mail (15%) and print media (15%) were indicated as being the most convenient sources of information.
Conclusions: The majority of respondents had difficulties with the choice of OTC medicines. Consumers are interested in accessing information about the rational choice of OTC drugs. The Internet is the most convenient source of information about medicines. We found a low level of consumer knowledge about Cochrane, which cries out for the need for interventions to increase awareness of Cochrane evidence for informed decisions on medicine choice.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: Respondents were consumers.