What drives using antibiotic without prescriptions? A qualitative interview study of university students in United Arab Emirates

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Background: Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is considered as natural phenomenon that occurs over the time due to genetic changes. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is significantly increasing in the UAE. Self-medication with antibiotics has been identified as a major factor for the development of antibiotic resistance, which is significantly increasing in the UAE.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore the factors that contribute to the use of antibiotics without prescriptions among first year healthcare university students in UAE.

Methods: Based on the findings of an earlier survey study, a qualitative interview study was designed to explore common themes related to student’s knowledge, awareness, attitude, views, and perceptions. Data were analyzed thematically for the identification of themes and subthemes within the data through the use of coding.

Results: The interview study identified four main themes with multiple subthemes related to the use of antibiotics without a physician’s prescription by first-year healthcare students. The thematic analysis of the interviews revealed four main themes; medication habits and practices; reasons for self-medication; access to antibiotics without a prescription and gaps in students’ knowledge regarding antibiotic resistance

Conclusions: Healthcare students in UAE are influenced by several factors including parents and friends influence, successful previous experience and investment of time and money to visit a physician. Our sample of healthcare students has a misconception about the use of antibiotics. The current interview study identified six new reasons for using antibiotics without prescriptions as compared to our earlier survey study. There is a need of multifaceted strategies to decrease unnecessary antibiotic use in our population sample.

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