What do consumers do with, and think about, antibiotics?

Katie Page 1, Elaine Lum 1, Lauren Healey 1

Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia


Introduction: There is growing worldwide concern about antibiotic resistance and its effects on public health. Whilst there are many stakeholders who contribute to this issue a significant gap in the literature concerns the consumption patterns and beliefs of consumers about antibiotics and their effects. We seek to remedy this gap by exploring a range of problematic antibiotic practices and obtain reliable estimates of their prevalence, as well as their normative status.

Methods: We conducted an online survey of over 500 consumers. We used a novel methodology to elicit more truthful responding than standard self-report measures. We asked participants to indicate whether they engaged in ten practices including whether they had: “Taken antibiotics when they are out of date” and “seen another GP when the first did not prescribe antibiotics”. We then obtained estimates of the percentage of other consumers (like them) who had engaged in each behaviour, as well as asking them “among those people who had, the percentage that would admit to having done so”.

Results: Building on pilot work we show that over 50% of consumers have requested antibiotics from their GP before travelling, discarded them in bin or down the sink, stopped them early if feeling better, explicitly asked a GP for antibiotics, and kept antibiotics for later use.

Conclusions: These findings are of paramount importance in gaining a better understanding of consumers’ antibiotic consumption patterns. These will be vital for better targeting educational campaigns to lower inappropriate antibiotic consumption.

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