HealthDay News — A sizable minority of older adults have used leftover antibiotics for a nonintended purpose, according to research published online in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Preeti Malani, MD, from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues analyzed data from a 2019 University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging to assess use and perceptions of antibiotics among 2256 US adults (aged 50 to 80 years).

The researchers found that 47.7% of respondents reported an antibiotic prescription in the previous 2 years, most often for respiratory (49.7%), dental (17.6%), urinary tract (16.6%), and skin (11.7%) infections. Among those who filled a prescription, 12.7% had leftover medication, 65.0% of whom kept them and 20.0% of whom threw them away or flushed them down the toilet. Among all respondents, 16.8% took their own leftover antibiotics and 3.4% took medication belonging to someone else. Four in 10 respondents (41.3%) said that if they had a cold or flu that lasted long enough to cause them to see a doctor, they would expect to receive a prescription for an antibiotic.

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“In addition to counseling patients to take all antibiotics as prescribed, prescribers should consider the number of pills dispensed and follow guidance supporting shorter treatment durations for common infections,” the authors write.

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