Cross-sectional survey to describe medicine use among Syrian asylum seekers and refugees in a German federal state: looking beyond infectious diseases

Saleh Aljadeeah, Veronika J Wirtz, Eckhard Nagel

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OBJECTIVES: The aim of our study was to describe medicine use and document self-reported diseases or conditions for which medicines were used among Syrian asylum seekers and refugees (AS&Rs) in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). We examined in this study differences in the use of medicines among different age and sex groups of the study participants.

SETTING: Fifteen different refugee shared accommodation centres in the greater Cologne area, a community centre with a language school and consultation office, and other places frequented by the Syrian community.

PARTICIPANTS: Syrian AS&Rs registered in NRW and residing in the city of Cologne or surrounding areas.

PRIMARY OUTCOME MEASURES: The prevalence of using at least one medicine in the 7 days preceding data collection, and the use of prescribed medicines and self-medication.

RESULTS: Of the 1641 Syrian AS&Rs who took part in our study, the overall 7-day prevalence of medicine use was 34.9%. Among adults, headache and hypertension were the most common indications that led to medicine use. By dose, hypertension (954 doses) and diabetes (595 doses) were the first and second most frequent indication. Among children, fever and cough were the most common indication; ibuprofen and hederae helicis folium preparations were the most used medicines. Low prevalence was found of medicine use for the treatment of either infectious diseases or mental disorders.

CONCLUSION: Among the Syrian AS&Rs in NRW who participated in the study, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were common presumed causes of use of medication among adults. We encourage future studies to pay more attention to NCDs medicine use among AS&Rs. Researchers should also consider reaching AS&Rs who live in private housing and not limit studies only to newly arrived AS&Rs who live in shared accommodation centres.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere053044
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Adult
  • Child
  • Communicable Diseases/drug therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Refugees
  • Syria


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