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Self-medication kills about 20,000 Brazilians annually

Self-medication kills about 20,000 Brazilians annually

77% of people are accustomed to taking medications themselves in the country (Image: Freepik)

About 20,000 Brazilians die every year as a result of self-medication. Recognition from the Brazilian Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (Apipharma). A survey conducted by the Federal Pharmacy Council shows that 77% of people have the habit of taking medications themselves in the country, without consulting a doctor or pharmacist.

Even those who want to take a simple headache or anti-flu medication should be careful. If a person is already taking other controlled medications for high blood pressure or depression, for example, they may interact and lose their effect. Or worse: the effectiveness of a drug can be amplified by mixing and the patient can become poisoned.

This condition is called a drug interaction, and it led 1.7 million Brazilians to seek outside care, in 2022, due to a health problem related to the incorrect use of medications, according to the Ministry of Health.

“The problem of drug accumulation occurs due to the effect of some of them on liver enzymes that metabolize other drugs, causing abnormal concentrations in the body; Possible allergic reactions. Cardiovascular risks. Problems with the central nervous system, leading to excessive sedation and mental confusion. Development of resistance to some treatments, especially in cases of antibiotics and antiviral drugs; In the most serious cases, there is a risk of death,” warns geriatrician Simone de Paula Pessoa Lima.

Each mixture of medications causes a different symptom in the body, according to the doctor. “The interaction between controlled medicines and over-the-counter medicines (such as flu medicines and paracetamol) can be complex and potentially risky. In the case of flu medicines, many of them contain a combination of ingredients, such as decongestants, antihistamines and sedatives, that interact with the medicines “Controlled medications, such as stomach and blood pressure medications, cause unwanted side effects or can change the effectiveness of medications,” he explains.

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Prescription drug interactions with acetaminophen can also be serious, but are not common. “Paracetamol is a popular pain reliever and antipyretic, often used to treat cold and flu symptoms. “It does not usually have serious interactions with other medicines, but in high doses for a long period of time it can cause intolerance or affect the liver,” the specialist points out.


One of the most common drug interactions occurs while using antacids, which are medications that combat heartburn.

“Antacids, by changing the pH of the stomach, will interfere with the absorption of many drugs. So they can either increase or decrease the effect of many drugs. “It is common to reduce the effect of many drugs,” explains UNA pharmacology professor Willian Mendez.

According to the expert, people who constantly use medications to control diabetes are also more susceptible to drug interactions.

“Another very common interaction is the use of corticosteroids and antidiabetics. Corticosteroids such as prednisone and prednisolone will increase blood glucose levels, and if a person already has diabetes and is already using antidiabetic medications, they may have poor blood sugar control.” Due to the use of these medications.

Confusing antibiotics with oral contraceptives is also common and can be dangerous. “Many antibiotics can reduce the effect of oral contraceptives and the person may then experience an unwanted pregnancy.”