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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


PARIMI, Neeta; PEREIRA, Lexley M. Pinto  and  PRABHAKAR, Parimi. The general public's perceptions and use of antimicrobials in Trinidad and Tobago. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2002, vol.12, n.1, pp.11-18. ISSN 1680-5348.

Objective. To determine the general public's perceptions and use of antibiotics in Trinidad and Tobago, a two-island republic in the Caribbean. Methods. This prospective study surveyed 824 randomly selected households listed in the telephone directory, from November 1998 to January 1999. Through telephone interviews we determined knowledge about antibiotics and beliefs concerning their safety and efficacy. We studied the influence of age, gender, education, and having private health insurance on knowledge, self-medication, storing medication at home for emergency use ("hoarding"), and asking a private doctor to prescribe antibiotics ("demand prescribing"). Results. For the 824 telephone calls that the interviewers completed, 753 of the households agreed to participate (91.4% response rate). Of those 753 participants, 699 of them (93%) knew the term "antibiotic," 29% (206/699) said it was a drug for bacterial infections, and 25% (170/690) had asked a doctor for an antibiotic prescription. Penicillin was correctly identified as an antibiotic across age, gender, and education categories, but 36% of respondents incorrectly said Benadryl (diphenhydramine), a common over-the-counter cough and cold formulation, was an antibiotic. Gender was not significantly associated with knowledge of antibiotic safety, with self-medication, or with hoarding antibiotics. On the other hand, completion of tertiary (university) education was significantly associated with correct knowledge of the safety of antibiotics and whether or not they could cure all infections. Of the various antimicrobials, beta-lactams were the ones that survey respondents had used most frequently in the preceding year, and 20% of antibiotics users had used multiple antibiotics in that period. In comparison to persons with private health insurance, more individuals without private health insurance said that antibiotics are safe and do not have side effects, and more of them also incorrectly called aspirin and Benadryl antibiotics. Conclusions. In Trinidad and Tobago, inappropriate use of antimicrobials results from self-medication, over-the-counter availability at the community pharmacy, prescribing on demand, and lack of regulatory control. In order to contain antibiotic abuse, both the Drug Inspectorate of the Ministry of Health and the Pharmacy Board should exert stricter control on the dispensing of antibiotics at private pharmacies. Further, education of the general public and of health care professionals on antibiotic misuse and appropriate use must be instituted, along with community-based surveillance of antimicrobial resistance trends.

Keywords : Antimicrobials; health education; professional education; self-medication; Caribbean.

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