International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 1213–1221 | Cite as

Consumer knowledge and perceptions about antibiotics and upper respiratory tract infections in a community pharmacy

  • Ian FredericksEmail author
  • Samantha Hollingworth
  • Alex Pudmenzky
  • Laurence Rossato
  • Shahzad Syed
  • Therése Kairuz
Research Article


Background Overuse of antibiotics is a global concern and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of relapsing to an era with no effective antibiotics. In Australia, various national consumer campaigns had been running since 2000, and the concern was prioritised in 2011, when the need for a national approach to address antibiotic resistance was identified. Objective The aim of this study was to explore consumer attitudes and knowledge about (upper respiratory tract) infections, colds and flu, and antibiotics, and to identify factors contributing to antibiotic misuse which could be addressed by tailored patient counselling. Setting A community pharmacy in an area of Brisbane, Australia. Method A self-administered anonymous questionnaire was distributed among pharmacy consumers. Perceptions of, and knowledge about antibiotics were measured using a 5-point Likert-type scale of agreement/disagreement. Main outcome measure The proportion of self-diagnosers and non self-diagnosers who agreed/disagreed with the attitude statement, “I know that I need antibiotics before I visit my doctor”; and the proportion of mistaken and non-mistaken who agreed/disagreed with the statement, “I will get better faster if I take antibiotics when I have a cold or flu”. Results Over a third of the 252 participants believed that they would recover faster by taking antibiotics when suffering from a cold or flu, and nearly one-fifth felt that antibiotics would cure viral infections. More females (62.2 vs. 43.9 %) self-diagnosed (p = 0.002) although more males (42.1 vs. 30.8 %) were mistaken about the efficacy of antibiotics for treating colds and flus. Mistaken respondents were more likely than non-mistaken respondents to self-diagnose (p = 0.01). Conclusion This study confirms a lack of knowledge among consumers about the efficacy of antibiotics in treating viral infections despite education campaigns. The findings strongly suggest there is a need for pharmacists and other health care professionals to elicit consumer beliefs and understanding about antibiotics and to tailor their advice appropriately.


Antibiotics Attitudes Australia Consumer attitudes Health literacy Knowledge Patients Pharmacists Resistance Upper respiratory tract infections 



The authors thank the consumers who participated in this study, and the management of the community pharmacy for permitting the study to be conducted.


The authors thank the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia for financial assistance for data entry; this had no influence on study design or data analysis.

Conflicts of interest

None to declare.


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Copyright information

© Koninklijke Nederlandse Maatschappij ter bevordering der Pharmacie 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PharmacyThe University of QueenslandWoolloongabbaAustralia
  2. 2.School of Information Technology and Electrical EngineeringThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Pharmacy, College of Medicine and DentistryJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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