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Keywords:

  • adverse effects;
  • blood;
  • developing country;
  • drug-therapy;
  • economics;
  • education

Summaryobjective  To investigate the behaviour, knowledge of risks, and attitudes towards injections among patients at a clinic in Karachi.

methods  In March 1995, trained staff administered a structured questionnaire to 198 consecutive new adult patients attending a university clinic in Karachi, Pakistan.

results  Half (97; 49%) of the patients received injections at their last visit to a health care provider. 35% had received 10 or more injections in the last year. 64% felt that injections were more powerful and were willing to pay more for them than for pills. 84% preferred pills or advice over injections if told they were equally effective, 83% believed that a used needle could transmit a fatal disease, and 86% believed that it is usually possible to get better without an injection. 91% reported that the doctor always recommends an injection; few patients (9%) ever asked for one. Injections were given without much regard for the chief complaint of the patient. Some needles (= 21) for the injection came from bowls of water: of those from closed packets (= 116), 68 were ‘cleaned’ by wiping or placing them in water. 91% of patients (180) knew at least one risk of reuse of needles. Patients who knew three or more risks of using unclean needles were 0.14 times as likely to have had more than five injections per year in the last 5 years but only if the patients had 8 or more years of education.

conclusion  Patients receive injections from doctors in Pakistan frequently, indiscriminately and often without proper safety precautions. They are aware of both positive and negative aspects of injections but are likely to do what the doctor suggests. Interventions to reduce risky overuse of injections should focus on patients' general education and knowledge of the risks of injections to empower them to choose healthier therapies.