Preferences based interventions to address the use of antibiotics without prescription: a discrete choice experiment

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Anti-Bacterial Agents, Self Medication, Drug Utilization, Pharmacies, Patient Preference, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, Attitude to Health, Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Waiting Lists, Socioeconomic Factors, Focus Groups, Surveys and Questionnaires, Colombia


Background: In many countries, concerns have arisen over the population using antibiotics without consulting a physician. This practice can place patients at risk and increase antibiotic resistance in the community.

Objective: To evaluate individuals' preferences regarding the use of antibiotics. The study also assessed the likely effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing inappropriate use of antibiotics.

Methods: A discrete choice experiment (DCE) was conducted in Bogotá, Colombia. The attributes were determined by a systematic literature review and four focus group sessions. The DCE included nine factors – cost, time to get attention, level of symptoms, efficacy, safety, among others- and one label -using or not antibiotics. Data analysis was carried out using a generalized multinomial logit (GMNL) model. Marginal probabilities of different sets of attributes' levels were compared to estimate the likely effectiveness of interventions.

Results: The survey was administered to 222 participants from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. The results suggest that participants preferred not taking antibiotics and having a physician as an advisor, but the probability of inappropriate antibiotic use increased as the waiting time or the cost of receiving advice rose. The pharmacy was the preferred source of antibiotics, and participants chose the pharmacy worker (nonprofessional) as an advisor over the nurse on the phone. In the absence of any interventions aimed at reducing the use of antibiotics, approximately 47.3% of people would misuse antibiotics. This reduces to 26.5% when people perceive the efficacy of the antibiotics as low and the potential risks of self-medicating as high. An alternative model using a nursing service would likely lower inappropriate use of antibiotics.

Conclusions: Even though people prefer not using antibiotics or visiting a physician in case of disease rather than self-medicating, current access conditions might discourage them from appropriately use antibiotics. The results suggest that interventions that informing people about the risks of self-medication and the low efficacy might significantly reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics. Our results also suggest that programs that empower other health professionals to provide access to antibiotics would likely further lower inappropriate use.


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