Comparative assessment of the prevalence, practices and factors associated with self-medication with antibiotics in Africa

Eugene Vernyuy Yeika, Brecht Ingelbeen, Ben-Lawrence Kemah, Frankline Sevidzem Wirsiy, Joseph Nkeangu Fomengia, Marianne A. B. Van der Sande

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review

2 Downloads (Pure)


OBJECTIVE To evaluate and compare the prevalence, reasons, sources and factors associated with self-medication with antibiotics (SMA) within Africa.

METHODS Systematic review and meta-analysis. An electronic search of PubMed and Google Scholar databases was performed for observational studies conducted between January 2005 and February 2020. Two reviewers independently screened abstracts and full texts using the PRISMA flowchart and performed quality assessment of eligible studies. Both qualitative and quantitative syntheses were carried out.

RESULTS Forty studies from 19 countries were eligible for qualitative synthesis. The prevalence of SMA in Africa ranged from 12.1% to 93.9% with a median prevalence of 55.7% (IQR 41-75%). Western Africa was the sub-region with the highest reported prevalence of 70.1% (IQR 48.3-82.1%), followed by Northern Africa with 48.1% (IQR 41.1-64.3%). We identified 27 antibiotics used for self-medication from 13 different antibiotic classes. Most frequently used antibiotics were penicillins (31 studies), tetracyclines (25 studies) and fluoroquinolones (23 studies). 41% of these antibiotics belong to the WHO Watch Group. The most frequent indications for SMA were upper respiratory tract infections (27 studies), gastrointestinal tract symptoms (25 studies) and febrile illnesses (18 studies). Common sources of antibiotics used for self-medication were community pharmacies (31 studies), family/friends (20 studies), leftover antibiotics (19 studies) and patent medicine stores (18 studies). The most frequently reported factor associated with SMA was no education/low educational status (nine studies).

CONCLUSIONS The prevalence of SMA is high in Africa and varies across sub-regions with the highest prevalence reported in Western Africa. Drivers of SMA are complex, comprising of socio-economic factors and insufficient access to health care coupled with poorly implemented policies regulating antibiotic sales.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTropical Medicine and International Health
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)862-881
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • self-medication with antibiotics
  • prevalence
  • practices
  • associated factors
  • Africa


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparative assessment of the prevalence, practices and factors associated with self-medication with antibiotics in Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this