Background: Despite being illegal, non-prescription sales of antibiotics in India continue to be a major contributor to antibiotic abuse, which fosters antibiotic resistance.
Methods: Two trained actors simulated symptoms of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) and upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) in 60 pharmacies each randomly selected in the Union Territory of Pondicherry, India. The ease of obtaining antibiotics, any additional enquiries made by the pharmacies, and any additional advise given were noted.
Results: Only 33/120 pharmacies (27.5%) declined to dispense antibiotics without prescription; all 33 were attached to a hospital or nursing home. The most frequently dispensed antibiotics for AGE and URTI were ciprofloxacin (41.4%) and coamoxiclav (41.3%) respectively. Out of the 87 pharmacies which dispensed antibiotics without prescription, the presence of additional symptoms and previous drug allergy were enquired by 20 (22.9%) and 9 (10.3%) pharmacies respectively. While over half of the pharmacies gave instructions regarding dose, duration and frequency of antibiotic consumption, none of the pharmacies provided information regarding adverse reaction profile of antibiotics. Non-pharmacological measures for symptomatic improvement were advised by 24/120 pharmacies (20%).
Conclusions: Non-prescription sales of antibiotics are unacceptably high in Pondicherry. Stricter implementation of the law and public awareness of the perils of inappropriate antibiotic usage are the need of the hour.
Antibiotics, Acute gastroenteritis, Non-prescription usage, Pharmacies, Upper respiratory tract infection