Overuse of medications in low- and middle-income countries: a scoping review

Loai Albarqouni, Sujeewa Palagama, Julia Chai, Priatharsini Sivananthajothy, Thanya I. Pathirana, Mina Bakhit, Morteza Arab-Zozani, Respati Wulansari Ranakusuma, Magnolia Cardona, Anna Scott, Justin Clark, Claire Friedemann Smith, Emmanuel Effa, Eleanor Ochodo, Ray N Moynihan, Overdiagnosis and Overuse of Healthcare Services in LMICs Network

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To identify and summarize the evidence about the extent of overuse of
medications in low- and middle-income countries, its drivers, consequences and
potential solutions.
We conducted a scoping review by searching the databases PubMed®, Embase®, APA PsycINFO® and Global Index Medicus using a combination of MeSH terms and free text words around overuse of medications and overtreatment. We included studies in any language published before 25 October 2021 and were reporting on the extent of overuse, its drivers, consequences and solutions.
We screened 3489 unique records and included 367 studies reporting
on over 5.1 million prescriptions across 80 low- and middle-income countries – with studies from 58.6% (17/29) of all low-, 62.0 % (31/50) of all lower-middle and 60.0% (33/55) upper-middle-income countries. Of the included studies, 307 (83.7%) reported on the extent of overuse of medications, with estimates ranging from 7.3% to 98.2% (interquartile range: 30.2–64.5). Commonly overused classes included antimicrobials, psychotropic drugs, proton pump inhibitors and antihypertensive drugs. Drivers included limited knowledge of harms of overuse, polypharmacy, poor regulation and financial influences. Consequences were patients harm and cost. Only 11.4% (42/367) of studies evaluated solutions, which included regulatory reforms, educational, deprescribing and audit–feedback initiatives.
Growing evidence suggests overuse of medications is widespread within low- and middle-income countries, across multiple drug classes, with few data of
solutions from randomized trials. Opportunities exist to build collaborations to rigorously develop and evaluate potential solutions to reduce overuse of medications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-61D
JournalBulletin of the World Health Organization
Issue number1
Early online date1 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


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