Medacs Healthcare

OCT 24/2013

GPs 'over-prescribing antibiotics'

A new study from Cardiff University has claimed that many GPs are over-prescribing antibiotics to their patients.

The Europe-wide research, which involved more than 3,400 people, showed that often doctors and clinicians wrongly assume that patients want antibiotics to treat their health problems, however they are not always needed.

Over-prescribing antibiotics is however an unsafe practice, as this can help bacteria to become increasingly resistant, rendering the drugs less effective.

One of the most common reasons for consulting and prescribing antibiotics in primary care was found to be an acute cough, however the recovery time was shown to be largely the same, whether or not the patients expected, asked for the medication or in fact received it.

Dr Nick Francis, from the Cardiff University School of Medicine, who is also a GP in Ebbw Vale, told the BBC that many GP staff prescribed antibiotics because they feared 'bad press' if their patients did not become better and were keen to maintain strong relationships with them.

However, Dr Francis said these relationships can be maintained by ensuring that patients are fully aware of when antibiotics are needed.

"It's a safer approach and they can come back to the doctors once they know what to look out for," he explained.

Dr Francis went on to say: "The study provides clear evidence that patient views are not associated with illness severity and is therefore unlikely to represent a rational reason for prescribing antibiotics.

"Moreover, clinicians are not good at correctly assessing patient views on use of antibiotics," and added that patient satisfaction could in fact be increased through enhanced communication.

A separate study published in JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this month found that many patients with sore throats or acute bronchitis were being prescribed with antibiotics, despite only a small percentage of these cases actually benefiting from them.

Researchers from Harvard University explained that illnesses which are caused by viruses, rather than bacterial infections, do not require antibiotics and therefore prescription of such medicine will not help and could in fact make antibiotics less effective.

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