A study today in the Annals of Internal Medicine hints that using antibiotics without medical supervision may be a common practice in the United States.

In a review of surveys conducted among various US populations over the past two decades, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and elsewhere found that the prevalence of nonprescription antibiotic use ranged from 1% to 66%, and that storage of antibiotics for future use ranged from 14% to 48%. Antibiotics were most commonly obtained from prior prescriptions and family or friends with prescriptions, but also from neighborhood markets, the internet, and pet stores.

In one survey from 2018, nearly half of the respondents reported keeping leftover antibiotics from a prescription, and nearly three-quarters of those with leftovers said they had subsequently given them to their children’s siblings or other children or adults. In a 2004 survey conducted among 101 neighborhood grocery store owners in New York City, 34 had antibiotics available for purchase.

Lead study author Larissa Grigoryan, MD, PhD,  a researcher with Baylor College of Medicine and the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety, said the results of the review suggest that nonprescription antibiotic use in the United States is an under-the-radar public health problem.

“Antibiotics are one of the very few drugs where inappropriate use in one patient can harm another patient; from a public health perspective, this can increase the level of antibiotic resistance,” Grigoryan said. “I don’t think [people] realize the harm that comes from this type of unsafe antibiotic use.”

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Read more at CIDRAP…

See also:

Jul 22 Ann Intern Med review

Nov 5, 2018, CIDRAP News story “Survey finds parents commonly save, share leftover antibiotics

Jul 12, 2016, CIDRAP News story “US survey: Many willing to skip doctor to get antibiotics