Nonprescription antibiotic therapy: Cultural models on both sides of the counter and both sides of the border

Meredith Gartin, Alexandra Slade, Norah Anita Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Antibiotic resistance is a global public health threat exacerbated bymedically unwarranted or improper antibiotic use. Pharmacy counters at the U.S.-Mexico border provide an example of where lay decisions to use antibiotics in ways considered "risky" may be initiated and negotiated. We test how cultural and public health knowledge of antibiotics is distributed among pharmacy staff, localMexican clients, and U.S. medical tourists in the bordertown of Nogales using a cultural consensus tool. We find that shared cultural models across these groups include public health statements; however, other shared statements are likely to reinforce antibiotic sales at pharmacy counters by those on both sides of the purchase as economic, rather than therapeutic, encounters. From a public health perspective, border pharmacy counters are not a location where increased "safe" knowledge about antibiotic use is being transmitted. However, we do find a positive relationship between "safe"knowledge and reductions in risky behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-107
Number of pages23
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Antibiotics
  • Cultural models
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Mexico
  • Self-medication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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