March 15, 2005, Kolkata, Press Release

“TB patients should avoid the doctor and take up DOTS therapy for a comprehensive cure”. This and many other such interesting – and seemingly controversial – issues came out in a group discussion organised by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) among laymen and experts to launch a project on the subject and to mark ‘World Consumer Rights Day’ which falls today. The discussants included doctors, pharmacists, professors, housewives and civil society members from various strata of the society.

In India, as in many other countries, medically inappropriate, ineffective and economically inefficient use of pharmaceuticals occurs quite commonly. The Conference of Experts on the Rational Use of Drugs convened by the World Health Organisation in Nairobi in 1985 defined that: “Rational use of drugs requires that patients receive medications appropriate to their clinical needs, in doses that meet their own individual requirements for an adequate period of time, and at the lowest cost to them and their community”

This definition arguably takes into account the medical point of view. The health system however includes in its loop doctors, nurses and other paramedical personnel, drug manufacturers and pharmacists, and finally the patient, each of whom have a different ‘take’ on the whole gamut of issues concerning ‘rationality’ in connection with drugs. The patient is the affected party in the irrational use of drugs.

The ‘rational use of drugs’ when considered from the patients’ point of view lends itself to other interpretations. The ‘rationality’ here would include such mundane – yet important – premises such as, awareness that drugs do sometimes interact with other drugs and food; proper methods of storage and disposal of drugs; hazards of ‘over the counter’ medicines; awareness that some ailments do not need drugs but can be cured by adjusting lifestyles (lifestyle therapy) etc.

Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) a premier NGO of the city researching and advocating on consumer issues, has undertaken a project sponsored by WHO and the office of the Drug Controller General of India to build awareness among consumers (patients) on these matters.

The project envisages in the first instance to ascertain the level of awareness of the common man on these issues, develop and test ‘Patient Information Material’ (PIM) enlisting and detailing the normative behaviour of a patient, and finally to give this PIM wide publicity across India.