Itinerant vending of medicines inside buses in Nigeria: vending strategies, dominant themes and medicine-related information provided
Objective: To determine vending strategies and marketing themes employed by itinerant bus vendors, and assess the accuracy and completeness of information provided on medicines being sold in an urban setting in Nigeria
Methods: Cross-sectional study and content analysis of itinerant vending of medicines inside buses recorded with a mobile telephone on purposively selected routes in a mega city with an estimated 18 million residents in southwestern Nigeria over a 2-month period. Two coders independently assessed 192 vending episodes by 56 vendors for 147 OTC and prescription medicines. Inter-rater reliability (Gwet AC1 =0.924; p<0.0001).
Results: Fourteen thousands and four hundred potential consumers encountered 192 recorded episodes of vending of medicines inside 192 buses within the study periods. Forty-four (78•5%) of the 56 vendors were females in the 30-45 years age bracket, were mostly (75%) attired in the local ‘Iro and Buba’ Ankara fabric and showed laminated identity cards (97.5%) issued by the local association for ‘marketers’ of medicines inside buses, markets, and motor parks. Of the 14400 consumers encountered inside buses during the study period, between 6.7% and 48.3% purchased the medicines promoted. Prayers against death from road traffic accidents and diseases of physical and / or meta-physical origins were the most frequently used (76•8%) ice-breaking opening statement / strategy to gain consumers’ attention. Hematinics, multi-vitamins, simple analgesic, NSAIDs and corticosteroids were the most frequently vended medicines. Consumers’ enquiries were related to dosing for children (51.8%), elderly (28.6%), and pregnancy (52.7%); and contra-indications during pregnancy (8.9%). Factual medicines information such as dose, frequency, potential side effects and contra-indications were not provided in majority of vending episodes.
Conclusion: Itinerant vending of medicines and the use of misleading and melodramatic themes to secure high consumer patronage appear considerable in Nigeria. Majority of the vendors did not correctly respond to consumers medicine-related enquiries, or provide detailed factual medicines information to guide appropriate use. These misleading promotional activities could potentially encourage inappropriate purchase and probable self-medication by consumers.
Keywords: Self Medication. Nonprescription Drugs. Propaganda. Advertising as Topic .Nigeria.
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