Background India's total antibiotic use is the highest of any country. Patients often receive prescription-only drugs directly from pharmacies. Here we aimed to assess the medical advice and drug dispensing practices of pharmacies for standardised patients with presumed and confirmed tuberculosis in India. Methods In this cross-sectional study in the three Indian cities Delhi, Mumbai, and Patna, we developed two standardised patient cases: first, a patient presenting with 2–3 weeks of pulmonary tuberculosis symptoms (Case 1); and second, a patient with microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis (Case 2). Standardised patients were scheduled to present each case once to sampled pharmacies. We defined ideal management for both cases a priori as referral to a health-care provider without dispensing antibiotics or steroids or both. Findings Between April 1, 2014, and Nov 29, 2015, we sampled 622 pharmacies in Delhi, Mumbai, and Patna. Standardised patients completed 1200 (96%) of 1244 interactions. We recorded ideal management (defined as referrals without the use of antibiotics or steroids) in 80 (13%) of 599 Case 1 interactions (95% CI 11–16) and 372 (62%) of 601 Case 2 interactions (95% CI 58–66). Antibiotic use was significantly lower in Case 2 interactions (98 [16%] of 601, 95% CI 13–19) than in Case 1 (221 [37%] of 599, 95% CI 33–41). First-line anti-tuberculosis drugs were not dispensed in any city. The differences in antibiotic or steroid use and number of medicines dispensed between Case 1 and Case 2 were almost entirely attributable to the difference in referral behaviour. Interpretation Only some urban Indian pharmacies correctly managed patients with presumed tuberculosis, but most correctly managed a case of confirmed tuberculosis. No pharmacy dispensed anti-tuberculosis drugs for either case. Absence of a confirmed diagnosis is a key driver of antibiotic misuse and could inform antimicrobial stewardship interventions. Funding Grand Challenges Canada, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Knowledge for Change Program, and World Bank Development Research Group.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases