Self-medication is increasingly becoming a way of promoting and preserving health. As a method in treating milder illnesses, it not only involves treating illness symptoms by taking over-the-counter drugs, but also an individual’s readiness to be responsible for one’s own health, preserve it and care about it, and also knowing how to seek necessary information, meaning proper help at the right time. Research has shown that better informed individuals are more inclined to self-medication. Besides the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare workers are an important catalyst in the development of self-medication. Physicians should recommend self-treatment to patients suffering from milder illnesses, whereas pharmacies should take more time to advise about symptoms brought on by minor health problems and about measures for responsible self-medication.

The Croatian Association of the Self-Medication Industry (HUPBR) presents the first and comprehensive Self-Medication Manual with the aim of raising awareness of the need for good quality advice to patients from present and future pharmacists. Within the scope and quality of its content, the Manual represents a unique edition even beyond the borders of Croatia, resulting in cooperation between a large group of pharmacists with exceptional experience in everyday work with patients, pharmaceutical industry representatives, family doctors and the Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices of Croatia, Croatian Institute of Public Health, Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry at the University of Zagreb and the Croatian Medical Chamber.

Members of the Editorial Committee with a master’s degree in pharmacy, Martina Bonevski, Katarina Kujundžić, Luce Mandić and Mirna Radošević emphasised that promoting the good quality and responsible self-medication contributes directly to the local healthcare system. The Manual should empower pharmacists as professional advisors who assist patients in the treatment of minor illnesses. The Manual describes in detail the most frequent minor health problems encountered by pharmacists in their work with patients, along with specific advice to help citizens and properly advise them. The Manual is a tool for all pharmacists who are encouraged to provide advice to patients for minor illnesses, the ultimate goal of which is relieve the local healthcare system.

The Manual contains an introduction and 37 chapters in which we describe the most frequent minor health problems encountered by pharmacy teams on a daily basis in their work with users of pharmacy services. The introduction talks about self-medication in general terms, including regulations and safety in administering over-the-counter products. We divided the chapter into 10 systematic sections for easier reading. Each chapter is conceived in the same manner, which enables the reader to more easily follow the information. Each healthcare problem is viewed through 9 segments: description of the indication, role of the pharmacy team in self-treatment, collecting important information to recognise symptoms, guidelines for action based on specific symptoms, preparations for self-treatment, other therapy opportunities, additional advice, situations in which self-medication is not recommended and additional literature.

Promoting self-medication in a scientific way can have a significant impact on the Croatian healthcare system. According to research, undertaken by the Association in cooperation with the market research organization Gfk, a third of prescriptions issued by doctors actually relate to minor illnesses which can be treated with over-the-counter drugs or without receipts and by consulting with pharmacists for ailments such as colds, a nasal congestion, menstrual pains and the like. 

Responsible self-medication also has a significant impact on the Croatian public healthcare system, and leads to better healthcare results, more efficient healthcare and prolonging the lifespan of people.