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A quarter of Georgians took antidepressants or antibiotics without a prescription in 2016

16 February 2017

One in four adults in Georgia reported taking either antidepressants or antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription in 2016, according to a new survey by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), conducted for Transparency International Georgia.

‘Surely, when a quarter of the population reports taking these types of drugs without the supervision of a physician, it represents a public health concern, one of many in Georgia. Current regulations clearly fail to prevent such practices’, CRRC reported.

Self-medication with antidepressants can cause serious problems. While antidepressants may have side-effects even when taken under the supervision of a physician, the risks are higher without a doctor’s care, CRRC warns.

Self-medication with antibiotics is also problematic. If taken improperly, they can contribute to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is considered by many to be one of the world’s most pressing health problems. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, antibiotics should only be prescribed by a medical doctor who has examined the patient.

Women are significantly more likely to report taking antibiotics or antidepressants without a prescription than men, CRRC reports. According to their research, while 21% of men reported self-medicating, 30% of women did so.

‘A simple cross tabulation suggests the problem is largest in rural settlements. Men in different settlement types are equally likely to report taking these drugs without a prescription, while women in rural settlements are most likely to report doing so’, a statement by CRRC read.

At first glance, older people (56 and older) appear more likely to take anti-depressants and antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription. Similar to the finding with settlement types, men of different ages are equally likely to do so, while women who are 36 years old or older most often report doing so.

In order to begin to deal with this issue, the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, as well as civil society organisations should increase awareness of the problems associated with self-medication with antidepressants and antibiotics, especially among women, CRRC suggests.

The accessibility of medication without a doctor’s prescription has become one of the main problems for Georgia’s healthcare system. In response, the government has taken steps to restrict access to under-the-counter drugs.

According to legislative changes passed by the government on 3 August, individual pharmacists will now face suspension for selling psychotropic drugs without a prescription. Changes also concern pharmacies, as they are obliged to fire any pharmacist who was previously caught selling unprescribed drugs.

As a result of the changes, on 30 January, the Investigation Service of the Ministry of Finance detained the heads of some 21 pharmacies for allegedly selling psychotropic drugs to patients without prescriptions. This was followed by another 53 arrests for the same reason in December.

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