BACKGROUND: Over-prescribing and inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Few studies in low and middle-income settings have employed qualitative approaches to examine the drivers of antibiotic sale and dispensing across the full range of healthcare providers (HCPs). We aimed to explore understandings of the use and functions of antibiotics; awareness of AMR and perceived patient or customer demand and adherence among HCPs for human and animal medicine in Bangladesh.
METHODS: We used an ethnographic approach to conduct face-to-face, in-depth interviews with 46 community HCPs in one urban and one rural area (Gazipur and Mirzapur districts respectively). We purposefully selected participants from four categories of provider in human and veterinary medicine: qualified; semi-qualified; auxiliary and unqualified. Using a grounded theory approach, thematic analysis was conducted using a framework method.
RESULTS: Antibiotics were considered a medicine of power that gives quick results and works against almost all diseases, including viruses. The price of antibiotics was equated with power such that expensive antibiotics were considered the most powerful medicines. Antibiotics were also seen as preventative medicines. While some providers were well informed about antibiotic resistance and its causes, others were completely unaware. Many providers mistook antibiotic resistance as the side effects of antibiotics, both in human and animal medicine. Despite varied knowledge, providers showed concern about antibiotic resistance but responsibility for inappropriate antibiotic use was shifted to the patients and clients including owners of livestock and animals.
CONCLUSIONS: Misconceptions and misinformation led to a wide range of inappropriate uses of antibiotics across the different categories of human and animal healthcare providers. Low awareness of antibiotic action and antibiotic resistance were apparent among healthcare providers, particularly those with little or no training and those in rural areas. Specific and targeted interventions to address AMR in Bangladesh should include educational messages on the rational use of antibiotics and how they work, targeting all types of healthcare providers. While tailored training for providers may increase understanding of antibiotic action and improve practices, more far-reaching structural changes are required to influence and increase responsibility for optimising antibiotic dispensing among all HCPs.
- Antimicrobial resistance
- Informal healthcare
- Health provider
- Health system