Using Antibiotics Without a Prescription Could Lead to Resistance

Approximately 74% of patients storing prescription drugs saved them from previous prescriptions.

Many adults in a recent study reported self-prescribing antibiotics, which could be a contributing factor to antibiotic resistance.

In a study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, researchers surveyed 400 patients from different family practices in Houston, Texas. Of the participants, 5% said they used antibiotics without a prescription during the previous year.

Approximately 14% of patients had antibiotics at home, and 74% of patients storing the drugs had them from previous prescriptions.

"The most common conditions patients reported self-treating with antibiotics were sore throat, runny nose, or cough--conditions that typically would get better without any antibiotic treatment," said corresponding author Larisa Grigoryan, MD, PhD.

Of the patients who said they would use the drugs without a prescription, 60% came from public clinics, and 44% had incomes of less than $20,000, according to the study. Researchers found that patients from public clinics, who are typically minorities, and younger patients were the most likely to misuse the drugs.

"When people self-diagnose and self-prescribe antibiotics it is likely that the therapy is unnecessary because most often these are upper respiratory infections that are mostly caused by viruses even if the cause is bacterial, lay people don't know which antibiotics cover which pathogens and for how long should they use them,” Dr Grigorian said.

The overuse of antibiotics can lead to resistance, which can be dangerous for the individual and public health as well, the study concluded.