Antibiotic use in a periurban community in Mexico: a household and drugstore survey

Soc Sci Med. 1996 Apr;42(8):1121-8. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(95)00385-1.


In developing countries, antibiotics are the most common drugs sold, and some data suggest that they are frequently misused. In order to describe the pattern of antibiotic use in a periurban community in Mexico City, 1659 randomly-selected households were visited and an interview with the housewife was carried out. Six local drugstores also were selected at random. A social worker made six visits to each pharmacy, observed the events during the purchase of the drug and applied a structured questionnaire to the customer immediately after the transaction. Of 8279 individuals, 425 (5%) said that they had used at least one antimicrobial in the preceding 2 weeks and antibiotics were the majority (29%) of the drug sales. The main perceived reasons for drug use were acute respiratory tract ailments and gastroenteritis. Interviewees reported that antibiotic therapy was given in 27% of respiratory diseases and in 37% of all diarrheal episodes. The drugs most commonly reported were: penicillins, erythromycin, metronidazole, neomycin, cotrimoxazole and tetracyclines. While self-medication and drug purchases without medical prescription were common, the majority of antibiotics were prescribed by a physician. Approximately two thirds of individuals using an antibiotic said they had used it for less than 5 days and 72% of the purchases were for insufficient quantities of drugs. Our data suggest that antibiotics are frequently misused and they support the need to assess the determinants of self-medication, health-seeking behavior and physician prescribing practices. The need for effective educational programs to improve prescribers' decisions is stressed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / supply & distribution*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developing Countries*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Utilization Review
  • Female
  • Gastroenteritis / drug therapy
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology
  • Health Services Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data
  • Urban Health*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents