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Half of over-the-counter medications are ‘useless’

Pharmaceuticals expert says people should be better informed before self-medicating

A leading French pharmaceuticals expert has claimed that up to 50% of over-the-counter medicines have never shown any scientific effectiveness.

Jean-Paul Giroud, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and a member of the Academy of Medicine, is the author of “Self-medication, the expert guide,” in which he assesses 4,000 medications.

"Not only are we being sold hot air, but what is more serious is that, unfortunately, all drugs, even ineffective ones, are likely to cause some side effects,” he told France 2.

Referring specifically to sore throat medicines, he said: “There are no effective sore throat medications for the simple reason that they contain antiseptic, and a sore throat is an irritation and not linked to either a virus or bacteria. Yet they can cause digestive problems and allergic reactions.”

Professor Giroud, who has worked in medicine for 40 years, said: “Throughout my career I have tried to inform my medical students, as well as pharmacists, that for certain medicines there is no objective information available.”

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While he accepts self-medication is acceptable for treating some ‘benign’ disorders in healthy adults, he prohibits it "in infants, pregnant or lactating women as well as in elderly people already on prescribed drugs."

In his practical guide to self-medication, written in collaboration with experts in the fields of medical databases as well as with the independent scientific body Haute Autorité de Santé, Prof Giroud provides the tools to treat 120 everyday health problems.

The book features the causes, warning signs and action to be taken. In addition it lists the efficiency and tolerance of nearly 4,000 non-prescription drugs (including homeopathy and herbal medicines), all of them evaluated, rated from 0 to 20 and objectively assessed.

Prof Giroud says that in self-medication, it is essential to choose effective and well-tolerated medications, and has provided as a list of 85 ‘favourites’ – safe, go-to medicine cabinet staples for the self-medicating patient.

However, he warned that ‘In France, we already take too many medications.”

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