Medicine in rural Nepal

Medicines in rural Nepal

A case study to investigate the use of medicines

How can we help Nepalese people understand the medicine they are given at the health post when the majority of those in rural areas are illiterate. How can people know what the medicine is for, when or how to take it and how can they know about possible side effects. Commissioned by DJPL, one of Nepal’s leading


pharmaceutical companies and One to Watch, fellow designer Pim van Baarsen and I went to the rural areas of Nepal to investigate the use of medicine. We did research about what this untapped audience needs and developed a variety of concepts that would support DJPL in selling medicine in underserved markets.

RESEARCH The use of medicine
In order to more clearly understand the way medicine is used, we observed the customer’s journey from feeling ill, to buying medicine and recovery. The vast majority of people in Nepal live off agriculture. Despite their hard work and long hours their income is minimal. Many have their own ideas about being cured. While one goes to the local traditional healer, the other will visit a hospital.

At the pharmacy almost every medication is obtainable without prescription and does not come with an instruction leaflet. The pharmacist often decides the duration of the intake and, depending on the amount that he thinks is needed, a big strip is cut into smaller strips. With a red marker, the dosage and frequency of intake is written at the back. The medicine is placed in a small envelope and given to the patient.

Often the written advice is not longer readable once patients start using the strip. Another issue is that patients don’t finish their treatment fully. Without proper instructions, when the patient is starting to feel better, they often don’t see a reason to continue taking the medication. And without proper awareness of possible side effects, patients often stop taking their medicine when they experience unexpected side effects.

What we designed

A range of packaging concepts that incorporated a visual set of instructions and information to get better understanding about the use of medication.


Every package comes with a number of drawings. Here the prescriber can tick how often, how much and how the patient has to take their medication. In this way the patient gets full and clear information about how to properly use their medicine.


Besides giving only verbal instructions the prescriber can circle possible side effects on the packaging. This makes it easier for the patient to remember when they return home.


In total we designed three different kinds of packaging concepts. A sticker, an envelope and a box for a whole treatment. All designed for easy use and low cost production, and without relying on text to communicate.

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