Self-medication - cost reduction or increase?
There has been so much discussion about he alth care reform that now – now that it has been decided – no one really knows what is actually changing. However, one thing is certain: medical care is becoming even more expensive, and most people already prefer to go straight to a pharmacy and thus save themselves a visit to the doctor.
In 2005, Germans spent around 4.6 billion euros on non-prescription medicines and treated themselves in this way. In fact, self-therapy with medicines is possible in many cases. In any case, this view is represented in the “Handbook Self Medication” – written by the biologist Annette Bopp and the pharmacist Vera Herbst.
On 752 pages, the greatly expanded second edition provides information about the medicinal options and limits of self-treatment for more than seventy diseases. The book presents the results of the Stiftung Warentest, which evaluated 2000 preparations. Newly included are medicines that, since 2004, can no longer be prescribed at the expense of statutory he alth insurance companies and can now be bought in pharmacies without a prescription. The effectiveness of the preparations is assessed according to a four-stage evaluation model from "suitable" to "not very suitable". Apparently, the assessment follows strict guidelines: at least 35 percent of the preparations are considered "unsuitable". In addition, the book points out side effects and interactions with other drugs, and the appendix contains a price comparison for drugs with the same active ingredient.
The problem is that the bases of the assessment are not presented exactly."The basis of drug evaluation is the published international and national literature" is only written. It is asserted that the literature is "generally recognized" and "current". But which studies the book refers to in detail remains a mystery: there is no bibliography.
The book is dedicated to a wide variety of disorders and diseases - from acne and colds to diarrhea and osteoporosis. It is arranged according to the organs or functional systems of the body, so that, for example, remedies for conjunctivitis can be found in the "Eyes" chapter. The style of writing is clear and even a medical layperson should have no problems understanding it. An extensive index ensures that almost every important term can be found quickly.
In addition, the authors present not only the possibilities but also the limits of self-treatment. A period of time or a "pain limit" is specified for each illness, after which a doctor must be consulted. However, there is a risk that a medical layperson who lacks the knowledge imparted in a six-year medical degree and several years of specialist training will misjudge this limit: the layperson only goes to the doctor when it is already too late. For example, a purulent tonsillitis must be treated as quickly as possible with prescription antibiotics. Otherwise, the inflammation can spread and the heart valves can become inflamed. And that can be costly for patients and the he althcare system.
"The book should be in every family," says He alth Minister Ulla Schmidt. It is not certain, however, whether this will result in the cost reduction she is hoping for.