Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why Are Doctors Still Prescribing Antibiotics for Coughs and Colds?

The threat of increasing antibiotic resistance is a situation everyone should be aware of by now, especially those in the medical profession, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped a growing trend in prescribing the precious antibiotics we currently have in cases where they’re really not needed.

A new study out in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapyfound that for some conditions rates of prescription are flying in the face of national best practices, with more antibiotics prescribed for coughs and colds now than before there were any recommendations to reduce antibiotic resistance. In the study, researchers led by Jeremy Hawker of Public Health England looked at data from 537 UK general practice surgeries from 1995 to 2011.

They found that in 1995, 47 percent of cough and cold episodes were prescribed antibiotics. This went down to 36 percent by 1999 but then raced up to 51 percent in 2011. That’s half of all patients with coughs and colds receiving antibiotics, even though the recommendations tell GPs one of the things they can do is “no prescribing of antibiotics for simple coughs and colds.”

Hawker told me the reason for this was due to the interaction between doctors and patients and the pressure that puts on doctors to prescribe. Patients obviously feel ill enough to seek treatment and are likely under their own pressure to get well quick. They often think that antibiotics are the solution, which is probably largely down to a misunderstanding of how they work; most coughs, colds, and sore throats are viral and antibiotics only work on bacteria. You should know this by now.
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