Antibiotics dispensing for URTIs by community pharmacists and general medical practitioners in Penang, Malaysia: A comparative study using simulated patients
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Background: In Malaysia, doctors in private clinics (often called dispensing doctors) are permitted to dispense medicines. This potentially may compromise rational dispensing of medicines in general and antibiotics in particular. Aim: This study explored, assessed and compared dispensing of antibiotics between Community Pharmacist (CP) and General Practitioners (GPs) regarding symptomatic diagnosis, antibiotic categories, adherence to therapeutic doses and promotion of generic antibiotics. Method: The study used trained Simulated Patients (SPs), who used a scenario of common cold symptoms at GP private clinics and community pharmacies to observe and explore the practice of antibiotics dispensing. The study was conducted within the period of May to September 2011 in Penang, Malaysia. The data was analysed using descriptive statistics, Chi-square and Fisher’s Exact Tests at alpha level of 0.05. Results: GPs dispensed more antibiotics than CPs (p= 0.001) for common cold symptoms. They dispensed more Amoxicillin (n = 14, 35%) than CPs (n = 11, 11%) (p < 0.001) and more Tetracycline (n = 3, 7.5%) while no CP dispensed this category (p = 0.022). On the other hand, CPs (n = 11, 11%) suggested brand antibiotics where as GPs dispensed only generic antibiotics (p < 0.001). Generally GPs comply better with the symptomatic diagnosis standard e.g. when asking SPs about the symptoms they had, all GPs (n = 40, 100%) complied better with this standard. Despite that, they dispensed more antibiotics (n = 26, 65%) than CPs (n = 29, 29%) (p = 0.001). GPs (n = 22, 55%) also are better than CPs (n = 16, 16%) in adherence to therapeutic doses (p< 0.001). Conclusion: Findings showed poor adherence to rational dispensing of antibiotics by both providers. Although, GPs adhere better to symptomatic diagnosis and therapeutic dosing of antibiotics than CPs, they unnecessarily prescribe and dispense more antibiotics for Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms. Establishing prescription guidance and regulatory actions, especially for URTIs treatment, and separating of medication dispensing are seemed to be crucial steps for the reform.