Knowledge and behavior of consumers towards the non-prescription purchase of antibiotics: An insight from a qualitative study from New Delhi, India

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Anti-Bacterial Agents, Drug Resistance, Bacterial, Self Medication, Nonprescription Drugs, Prescriptions, Public Health, Evidence-Based Practice, Pharmacists, Pharmacies, Commerce, Developing Countries, Qualitative Research, India


Background: In Low-and Middle-Income Countries, including India, consumers often purchase antibiotics over-the-counter (OTC) from retail pharmacies. This practice leads to the inappropriate use of antibiotics in the community which is an important driver for the development of antimicrobial resistance. A better understanding of consumers’ views towards this grave public health concern is critical to developing evidence-based intervention programs for awareness among the general population.

Objective: To explore knowledge, practice and, behavior of consumers towards antibiotics, antibiotic use, antimicrobial resistance, purchasing behavior of consumers for antibiotics, and to gain insight which will help in developing evidence-based policy interventions.

Methods: 72 in-depth consumer interviews were conducted in all 11 districts of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results:  Our study found that retail pharmacies were the first point of consultation for common ailments for patients/consumers once home remedies failed; they were largely unaware of the threat of antimicrobial resistance. Consumers’ knowledge of antibiotic use and about antimicrobial resistance was low, they used old prescriptions, and bought antibiotics OTC to save time and money.  Despite the presence of regulations constituted to regulate the sale of antibiotics by the Government and the implementation of national campaigns, the practice of self-medication and behaviors such as OTC purchase, non-adherence to prescribed antibiotics was prevalent. Consumers perceive that antibiotics provide quick relief and accelerate the curing process and retail pharmacy shops try to protect their retail business interests by honoring old prescriptions and self-medication for antibiotics.

Conclusions: The lack of awareness and insufficient knowledge about what antibiotics are and issues such as antimicrobial resistance or antibiotic resistance resulted in misuse of antibiotics by consumers. Limited access to public healthcare and affordability of private healthcare are factors that contribute towards the self-medication/OTC purchase of antibiotics. The regular misuse of antibiotics through irrational use reinforces the need for strong enactment of strategies like continuous community awareness campaigns. Mitigation efforts should focus upon educating consumers continuously and sustainably for the understanding of antibiotic misuse, antimicrobial resistance, and promote better compliance with regulations.


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