Mrs V was recently diagnosed of peptic ulcer disease while awaiting endoscopy which will confirm it. She had been experiencing burning pains in her upper abdomen which occasionally affected her chest. Her doctor prescribed to her some medications which gave her relief within two days. In addition to other counsel, she was also advised to stop the use of some pain relievers, except Paracetamol, whenever she had pains at home.

She later experienced some headache for which she called her son to buy her pain relieving tablet. He bought Ibuprofen tablet which she used. About 18 hours later, she began to experience her burning pains again. During her consultation with the doctor, she was informed that she ought not to have used the painkiller that was bought for her.


When ill, the urge to walk into a medicine store to buy medication(s) is uncontrollable, even if consulting a medical personnel is the first and appropriate thing to do. This practice is not different from consulting unqualified persons, popularly called ‘‘quacks,’’ in Nigeria. The consequences are similar.

When people feel the unquenchable urge to buy medications without a prescription, especially when circumstances do not make physically consulting a doctor at the time feasible, the following five recommendations or tips are to be kept in mind in order to stay safe.

Relationship is key: Prior relationship with a hospital or doctor helps a lot. In developed countries, clients have their doctors’ phone numbers. Of course, in such climes they do not abuse the opportunity to call their doctors unnecessarily. Just as one has the number of his or her personal automobile technician who can be called when a car develops a fault in a place remote from his workplace, having a healthy medical relationship with a doctor comes handy when one needs to use a medication urgently. A simple call to the doctor to get guided on what to do is invaluable. During such calls, it may be recommended also if getting a physical evaluation is the safest and first option rather than buying a medication from a medicine store.

Know all the medications you should not use: Ensure you know the names of all medications you should never take. Fortunately, in most people, the list of such ‘‘disallowed’’ medications is short. If the name of such medication is difficult to recall; write it down in your phone, or on a piece of paper which you keep in your wallet or purse. You must always crosscheck the list before you buy any medication.

Be aware that there are different brand names for the same medication: Almost all medications are sold using different brand names as determined by the pharmaceutical company that manufactured it. For example, Ibuprofen, a pain relieving medication, is sold using several names. The fact that you know only one brand name does not mean that it is the only name in the market. Always confirm with the personnel dispensing the medication if the brand of medication being sold to you is similar to the one you are familiar with.

Avoid pedestrian or ambulant medication sellers: Everywhere in Nigeria is a potential market place. In the bus, in traffic, at a corner on the street, you will find someone selling medications for all sorts of ailments. Some of them have the boldness to give information, sometimes false, about the potency of what they sell. Do not be cajoled. Do not buy medications from ambulant sellers. Should you have a bad experience with the medication, you may not locate them to express your concerns. Take the pain to go to a registered medicine store to buy your medications whose address is known to the public. Safety requires some extra effort and sacrifice sometimes.

Some medications need special advice for their use. Except you buy your medication from a medicine store managed by a pharmacist, only trained health personnel (doctors and nurses) can also give the necessary advice on how to use certain medications. For instance, popular Lumefantrine-containing antimalarial medications are better absorbed with fatty meals. Using them after any other meal may not give the desired outcome of recovery. Some anti-diabetic medications are to be used before meals while others are to be used after meals. Mixing them up will also not give the expected blood sugar control.

This article has not endorsed self-medication or prescription; it has only discussed, in circumstances whereby doctors cannot be consulted immediately, tips that can ensure one stays healthy.

Image credit: Live Science.

Post Author: Dr Ademola Orolu

Dr Ademola Orolu is a Consultant Family Physician. He holds the Fellowship of The West African College of Physicians. He is also an Associate Fellow of The National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria. He is in active clinical practice. He is a writer, a patient advocate, and has a passion for health education. He is the Medical Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nathaniel Health Consulting (a family hospital), Matogun, Ogun State. He is the editor-in-chief of The Family Doctors. He can be contacted via

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.