INTRODUCTION: The data presented are part of a World Health Organization (WHO) multicenter study of self-medication in Latin America. Brazilian sites included: Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, the city of S. Paulo and outlying locations. The objective was to characterize self-medication practices by analyzing drugs sought by consumers in pharmacies without a physician's prescription. MATERIAL AND METHOD: Drugs were classified according to the Anatomic Therapeutic Classification codes, and analyzed with respect to 1) intrinsic value; 2) recognition as an essential drug (by either WHO or Brazil); 3) number of active ingredients; and 4) requirement for prescription. RESULTS: Five thousand, three hundred and thirty-two (5,332) different drugs, with 785 distinct active ingredients were sought. Of these, 49.5% were fixed dose combinations, 53.0% were of little intrinsic value, 44,1% required a physician's prescription, 71.0% were not essential drugs, and 40.0% of requests were based on prior prescriptions from the physician. The drugs most requested were analgesics (17.3%), nasal descongestants (7.0%), antirheumatic anti-inflamatory drugs (5.6%), and systemic anti-infective drugs (5.6%). CONCLUSIONS: Self-medication in Brazil reflects the needs and habits of the population. It is strongly influenced by physician's-prescribing habits and by the inadequate selectivity of the Brazilian pharmaceutical market.
Self medication; Drug utilization