The objective of this study was to evaluate consumers' perceptions regarding "modern medicines" in Penang, Malaysia. To conduct this exploratory study, qualitative techniques were used. Consumers more than 19 years of age and could speak English, who had visited a pharmacy in the last 30 days, were included from the four major areas of Penang. Eighteen interviews were conducted until the point of saturation. The interviews were audio-taped and then transcribed verbatim for thematic content analysis. Many consumers correctly identified the major characteristics and properties of modern medicines; however, others raised doubts regarding the safety, quality and efficacy of "modern medicines". There were many misconceptions such as "all modern medicines can cause dependence", traditional medicines are completely "free of side-effects" and "Western medicines cure while Chinese medicines don't". Color was also considered a strong determinant of the safety and characteristics of a medicine. Regarding consumers' "medicine information seeking behavior", many consumers would seek information from doctors and pharmacists; however, there were others, who would look for books, or get it from the internet and friends. Of concern many consumers emphasized that while "self-searching for drug information" they would only look for side-effects. Misconceptions regarding medicine-taking behavior, medicine use and compliance were also identified. Though several consumers complied with the medicine-taking instructions, many reported that they would stop taking medicines, once they feel better. Though many consumers correctly identified the characteristics of "modern medicines", misconceptions regarding "medicine information sources and "medicine-taking behavior" were rampant. The situation demands corrective actions including community-oriented educational campaigns to improve "medicine use" in the society.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.