Of those vendors, 36 percent sold antibiotics without a prescription, a practice that is both illegal and potentially dangerous, said MUSC Department of Family Medicine professor Arch G. Mainous, III, Ph.D. Sixty-four percent provide an online diagnosis and prescription without a physical exam or ongoing relationship with a doctor, a practice that is considered inconsistent with appropriate medical care.
“We recommend expanding efforts to control antibiotic resistance in our communities, beyond educating physicians about when to prescribe antibiotics,” Mainous said. “We need education directed to patients and the community, as well as increased regulation and enforcement of existing regulations.”
Penicillins (94 percent), macrolides (96 percent), fluoroquinolones (62 percent) and cephalospoins (57 percent) were found on the majority of these sites. Nearly all (99 percent) the antibiotics found were shipped to the United States with a mean delivery time of eight days. The study, entitled Availability of Antibiotics for Purchase Without a Prescription on the Internet, has been published in the September/October 2009 issue of the Annals of Family Medicine (www.annfammed.org).
Vendors who sold antibiotics without a prescription were more likely to sell in quantities greater than a single course, and more likely to take more than seven days for the antibiotics to reach the customer than were vendors who required a medical interview. The authors suggest these transactions would likely be used by individuals who store drugs for future self-diagnosis and treatment.
A copy of the study is available upon request.
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