IDSA coverage

OTC antibiotics commonly are sold in New York City

Will only spur more resistant bugs

In many countries around the world, antibiotics are sold without a prescription, a practice that is illegal in the United States. Yet some New York City stores that primarily serve the Hispanic community are selling these drugs over the counter, which adds to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, according to a study presented recently in Boston at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

Researchers found that antibiotics were available without a prescription in stores in Hispanic neighborhoods, but not in stores located in other neighborhoods.

"In Central and South American countries and developing countries around the world, it’s perfectly legal to buy antibiotics over the counter," says the study’s principal investigator, Elaine Larson, PhD, RN, associate dean for research at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City. "These store owners really believe they’re doing their customers a service, although it’s illegal in this country."

When available over the counter, antibiotics often are taken inappropriately, resulting in ineffective therapy and adding to the growing resistance problem. The study looked at 101 stores in three New York City neighborhoods: one primarily Hispanic, one primarily black, and one primarily white. Antibiotics were available without a prescription in all 34 stores in the Hispanic neighborhoods, but in none of the other stores.

Hand hygiene works beyond hospital

In another IDSA study, families that used alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel had a 59% reduction in the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses compared with families that didn’t use sanitizer, according to research presented recently in Boston at annual meeting.

The IDSA study tracked 292 families with at least one child in day care for five months. Of those, 155 were provided with hand sanitizer and hand hygiene educational materials, and 137 were not given sanitizer and were provided only with materials about basic nutrition. Those provided sanitizer were told to place bottles of it around the house including in the bathroom, kitchen, and baby’s room and to apply it to their hands after using the toilet, before preparing food, after diaper changes, and at other appropriate times. Investigators called the families every other week to record how much of the sanitizer they had used.

When a family member came home with a gastrointestinal bug, families that used the sanitizer had a 59% decrease in the illnesses spreading to others in the home.