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Trop Med Int Health. 2013 Jun;18(6):665-73. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12096. Epub 2013 Mar 29.

Analysing policy interventions to prohibit over-the-counter antibiotic sales in four Latin American countries.

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Center for Health Systems Research, National Institute of Public Health, Mexico.



To describe and evaluate policies implemented in Chile, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico (1995-2009) to prohibit antibiotic OTC sales and explore limitations in available data.


We searched and analysed legislation, grey literature and peer-reviewed publications on regulatory interventions and implementation strategies to enforce prohibition of OTC antibiotic sales. We also assessed the impact using private sector retail sales data of antibiotics studying changes in level and consumption trends before and after the policy change using segmented time series analysis. Finally, we assessed the completeness and data quality through an established checklist to test the suitability of the data for analysis of the interventions.


Whereas Chile implemented a comprehensive package of interventions to accompany regulation changes, Colombia's reform was limited to the capital district and Venezuela's limited to only some antibiotics and without awareness campaigns. In Mexico, no enforcement was enacted. The data showed a differential effect of the intervention among the countries studied with a significant change in level of consumption in Chile (-5.56 DID) and in Colombia (-1.00DID). In Venezuela and Mexico, no significant change in level and slope was found. Changes in population coverage were identified as principal limitations of using sales data for evaluating the reform impact.


Retail sales data can be useful when assessing policy impact but should be supplemented by other data sources such as public sector sales and prescription data. Implementing regulatory enforcement has shown some impact, but a sustainable, concerted approach will be needed to address OTC sales in the future.

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