Mapping the contours of risk: Consumer perceptions of non-prescription medicines

P. Bissell, P. R. Ward, P. R. Noyce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This paper draws on data from a qualitative study, and seeks to explore consumer perceptions of the risks of non-prescription medicines available from community pharmacies in the UK. In addition, we review some of the issues raised within the literature on the sociology of risk and attempt to situate these in relation to the present study. We highlight the fact that consumers were not generally concerned about the risks associated with non-prescription medicines. Rather, consumers tended to emphasize the benefits of these medicines at the expense of risk. A key finding centered on the notion of lay 'expertise' concerning the use of particular medicines, which was significant in shaping this perspective on risk and benefit. At the same time, we highlight the complex and sometimes contradictory ways in which the deregulation of medicines from prescription-only to pharmacy status challenges the notion that non-prescription medicines might be 'risk free' pharmacological entities. We suggest that issues concerned with risk and their appropriate management are likely to become increasingly significant as more medicines are deregulated from prescription-only to pharmacy status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-142
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Benefit
  • Community pharmacy
  • Deregulation
  • Non-prescription medicines
  • Qualitative research
  • Risk
  • Sociology of health and illness


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