Nonprescription antibiotic use seems prevalent in the United States

Nonprescription antibiotic use appears to be prevalent in the United States, according to a review published online July 23 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Larissa Grigoryan, M.D., Ph.D., from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues conducted a scoping review of research on the prevalence of nonprescription antibiotic use in the United States. Data were included from 31 articles that met inclusion criteria.

The researchers found that depending on population characteristics, the prevalence of nonprescription antibiotic use varied from 1 to 66 percent, while storage of antibiotics for future use varied from 14 to 48 percent; the prevalence of intention to use antibiotics without a prescription was 25 percent. Previously prescribed courses, local markets or stores, and family or friends were sources of antibiotics without a prescription. Easy access through markets or stores that obtain antibiotics for under-the-counter sales, difficulty accessing the health care system, cost of physician visits, long waiting periods in clinics, and transportation methods were all factors contributing to nonprescription use.

“Nonprescription antibiotic use is clearly a public health problem in all racial/ethnic groups, but many aspects are understudied,” the authors write. “The need to focus on nonprescription antibiotic use in community-based antimicrobial stewardship programs is urgent.”

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