Knowledge and use of over-the-counter drugs in Italy: a survey-based study in the general population

Stephania Chiappini, Franca Ceci, Alessio Mosca, Francesco Di Carlo, Julius Burkauskas, Mauro Pettorruso, Giovanni Martinotti, Amira Guirguis, John Martin Corkery, Norbert Scherbaum, Fabrizio Schifano, Massimo di Giannantonio

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Background: During the past decade, the misuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines has become a global public health concern, especially among young people. In this study, we aimed to explore the OTC consumption and related misuse in Italy and identify the demographic characteristics of people/individuals involved in this phenomenon, understanding eventual risk factors. Methods: The study consisted of an anonymous online survey distributed by direct contact and via the Internet between June-November 2021 to the general population living in Italy. Descriptive sta-tistics were reported, and binary regression analyses were performed to identify risk factors for life-time misuse of OTC. The University of Hertfordshire approved the study (aLMS/SF/UH/02951). Results: The final sample size was composed of 717 respondents. The sample was mainly repre-sented by female (69.3%) students (39.9%) in the 20-25 years age group (30.0%). Based on the survey responses, study participants were divided into two groups according to the presence/absence of OTC abuse/misuse (127 versus 590), which were compared for possible predictors of OTC diver-sion. Multivariate regression showed that OTC abuse/misuse was associated with the knowledge of the effects of OTC [odds ratio/OR = 2.711, 95%Confidence Interval/CI 1.794-4.097, p <0.001]. On the contrary, the educational level appeared to be a protective factor [OR = 0.695, 95%CI 0.58–0.94, p = 0.016]. Conclusion: Although, according to our data, the phenomenon of OTC abuse appeared to be lim-ited, increasing attention is needed because of possible underestimation and high-risk outcomes. Preventive strategies, including simplified access to information, may play a key role in limiting OTC misuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-141
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Neuropharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2022


  • over-the-counter drugs
  • OTC
  • drug misuse
  • drug diversion
  • survey
  • demographic characteristics
  • Over-the-counter drugs


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