How to Investigate the Use of Medicines by Consumers

Rational use assessment tool

Developed by: World Health Organization (WHO)

Objective:  To investigate the use of medicines by consumers, identify problems, design interventions and measure changes.                                

Output: The manual provides a framework which links individual drug use behaviour to the environment which shapes it, including; (1) an assessment of community drug use practices, with the aim of giving an overview of the drug use problems in a region or a country, (2) prioritisation of the problem and analysis of why it occurs, as a basis for developing an effective intervention, (3) monitoring and evaluation plans that aim to measure whether the intervention has been effective.

Additional information: The methodology in this manual aims to help investigators go beyond the individual patient and to study the needs of a community. By understanding why people take medicines as they do, it is possible to design interventions which are sensitive to the particular beliefs, practices and needs of that community. The manual aims to bring these methods and approaches to community-based organisations, consumer groups, health workers and health system researchers, as well as health planners. A companion volume – ‘How to Improve the Use of Medicines in Communities’, was published by the WHO in 2007 in English and French (Spanish in process) and describes how to plan and implement such interventions.    

Process and resources:

  • In the past WHO and partners have run an international training course of two weeks which costs about US$100 000 for 30 participants.
  • It is envisaged that once two national personnel are trained, they could undertake projects in their home countries to investigate community drug use and implement interventions to improve use. It is advisable that a social scientist is included in the investigating team.
  • A complete set of training course materials for investigating medicines use by consumers as well as other rational medicine use resources can be found at .
  • The costs of such projects will vary according to local conditions but if external support is needed for a large scale study involving a representative household survey, then costs are likely to exceed US$100 000 per country.

Link to the tool:

Country Experience: More than 100 studies have now been done investigating drug use in the household, pharmacy or informal shop. Some examples are:

Blue tablets