As many as 1 in 5 say they take leftover antibiotics without checking with their doctor, and 2 in 5 expect doctors to prescribe them for viral conditions, which don't respond to antibiotics.
Even though 89% of older adults know that overuse of antibiotics may mean the drugs won't work in the future, they still overuse them, researchers found.
"We obviously have work to do to help older adults understand the safe and appropriate use of these medications so that we can preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for patients who need them most," said poll director Dr. Preeti Malani, from the University of Michigan.
These findings are based on responses to questions from the university's National Poll on Healthy Aging, released Nov. 4. The poll included more than 2,250 U.S. adults aged 50 to 80.
"These findings should be a reminder to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other providers to step up their wise-prescribing practices and patient education," Malani said in a Michigan news release.
The researchers also found that:
- One in 8 had leftover pills, even though a course of antibiotics for an illness is supposed to be finished completely.
- Although 56% said that doctors overprescribe antibiotics, 23% said they didn't prescribe them when they should. Overprescribing antibiotics has led to a significant increase in bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.