Aug 17, 2019 | Updated: 07:24 AM EDT

Antibiotics Misuse: How Rampant Is It In The US?

Aug 01, 2019 10:27 AM EDT

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USA -- Antibiotics are prescribed medications from doctors to help kill the bacteria in the body that make people feel sick. However, studies show that some people in the US are drinking antibiotics without a doctor's prescription. Experts are concerned that such practice may lead to a full-blown public health problem because it could likely increase the drug-resistance of several types of bacteria, making it harder for doctors to treat infections. This is according to the study recently published in the medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine. 

A team of researchers gathered data on the use of non-prescription antibiotics used in the United States from 31 studies conducted within 2000 and 2019. They focused their study on four main populations: patients that are outside the health care setting, patients within health care setting, hispanic members of the population, and injection drug users. 

They also limited their definition of nonprescription antibiotic to include the obtaining, taking, storing of the drug. Their definition also included the intention of the individual to take the drug in the absence of a professional medical advice. The prevalence in the use of nonprescription antibiotic among the populations involved varied by showing 1% (clinic patients) to the 66% from the Latino community. While the intent across all four groups is only within the minimal range of 25%, the storage of such type of drugs fall within the range of 14% to 48% across all the groups that were under the study. 

"We know that people are likely to use antibiotics that are not prescribed to them by an attending physician, which is not safe for them or for overall public health. So in order to face the problem head on, we had to find out what was the practice that is already out there. This is to help us figure out the gaps," sair Dr. Barbara Trauter, lead author of the study. She is an infectious disease clinician-investigator of the Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She is also affiliated with  the Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness, and Safety. 

One of the factors that had to be considered was the motivation of these individuals to self-medicate and use nonprescription medication. The studies pointed out several factors including the lack of access to proper health care, waiting time at the doctor's clinic, cost of prescription antibiotics, and lack of transportation. 

People are able to get their hands on nonprescription antibiotics from various sources, including local markets and even leftover prescription. Other sources include family and friends, pet stores, flea market as well as health food stores. 

"The overall picture of this situation is this: the continued use of nonprescription antibiotics could become a burden of antibiotic resistance. It may seem like a small problem now, but when it blows up, it might be too late to make some changes then," she said. 

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