Study found 138 sites that sold them illegally, without a prescription
TUESDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Consumers who decide on their own that they need antibiotics can easily find and buy the medications on the Internet, without the benefit of a prescription, new research shows.
The practice is illegal, the study authors said, and could contribute to an overuse of antibiotics that is known to create resistant bacteria which, in turn, can cause life-threatening infections.
One expert agreed the trend has troubling implications.
"The expanded and uncontrolled use of antibiotics is a public health hazard because of the impact on creating multiple drug-resistant bacteria," said Dr. Robert Schwartz, chair of the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "We already have a problem in our country with physicians overprescribing antibiotics . . . Allowing individuals in society unrestricted access to antibiotics is a set-up for a public health disaster."
Most previous research and attention has focused on overprescribing by doctors, said Arch G. Mainous III, lead author of a paper appearing in the September/October issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.
"Unfortunately, it's misleading to make the assumption that that's only where antibiotics are available," he noted.
Not only are antibiotics available without a prescription in many other countries, they are also available in the United States at, for instance, cornerstores that serve ethnic communities, he said.
In the study, Mainous, a professor of family medicine and biostatistics, bioinformatics and epidemiology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and his co-authors searched "purchase antibiotics without a prescription" on both Yahoo and Google, focusing only on English-language sites.
The search yielded 138 different s
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