CUTS calls for prescription Drug Audits

Zambians health consumers are at the mercy of unscrupulous health practitioners and drug companies. Competition to sell medicines and services in the loosely regulated industry means medical practitioners regularly medicate patients up to the eyeballs with drugs they do not need, at prices they need even less. However, the root of our problems too often lie not in an absence of laws, but in a failure to enforce them. This undermines access to better health services. Until this changes, perhaps medical clinics and hospitals should carry this warning notice: “Don’t get sick”

It is always the consumer who is at the receiving end of the overuse and misuse of drugs by medical practitioners. Currently, consumers (patients) trust that these systems should act in their best interests, but alas, this is to the contrary. For example, most consumers are largely unaware of the influence of the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing on the very health professionals they rely on.

In this regard, there is need for Government to introduce prescription audits to monitor and restrict the use of drugs in this country. This should be complimented with tightening up of the regulatory system to monitor the affordability and quality of drugs coming in Zambia.

There is also need for closer monitoring of doctor’s behaviour at the micro level. This should also be accompanied by introducing efficient and effective audits systems of prescriptions. All stake holders should stand firm on this issue and ensure that this measure is effective.

Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), as a body which fights for pro-consumer policies across sectors including health, sees it feet to demand for a prescription audit, as this measure exists in countries that have well functioning health systems compared to Zambia such as the US and UK.

The other issue that is of exigency is the need for enhancing consumer awareness programmes on health issues. Health illiteracy issues exacerbate the already mentioned situations.

According to Healthy People 2010, “health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions”.

Low levels of health literacy are a significant problem for Zambian health consumers and the majority are confined in this trap. This is particularly alarming because low levels of health literacy are associated with poorer health outcomes for individuals. It is also reported that those with low health literacy are at greater risk of hospitalization than those with high health literacy.

CUTS therefore calls for concerted efforts in addressing this issue and the organisation will sooner no later engage in awareness activities from a consumer perspective vis a vis research. The outcome of such an intervention should leverage improvement in social functioning (e.g. social competency) which might lead to better decision making in e.g in drug-taking situations and other health services.