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Warning over prescribing antibiotics for coughs and colds

  • 4 Comments

Doctors and nurses have been urged to say no to patients who demand antibiotics for ailments, against which they are unlikely to be effective, such as coughs and colds.

The call comes after a Health Protection Agency (HPA) survey found that 97% of patients who had requested antibiotics from their GP had been given the medication.

In more than 50% of cases, patients demanded antibiotics to treat coughs and colds, even though they do not tackle most viral conditions.

A fifth of patients said they had been to see their GP with flu or a sore throat, with more than half of these (53%) saying they expected to be given antibiotics and a quarter saying they believed this medication would be effective.

It is feared that overusing antibiotics could lead to an increase in hospital bugs which are resistant to current preventive measures, a problem which already accounts for around 25,000 patient deaths across the EU annually from infections caused by bacteria resistant to to antimicrobial medicines.

HPA head of primary care Dr Cliodna McNulty said: “Health professionals need to learn to resist demands from patients for treatments they know have little or no effect on coughs and colds.”

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • I thought we routinely said no now anyway along with a retelling of the mantra that abx do not solve every ailment going! 97%? If that is true it is really surprising!

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  • Please note:
    Burke R (on the application of) v GMC 2006:

    'No healthcare professional can be forced to provide a treatment that is inappropirate, unnecessary and/or futile'

    I use this Court of Human Rights ruling every day of my working life for those patients who demand antibiotics for viral illnesses or any other demand for treatment to which it may be relevant.

    As long as your clinical rationale withstands 'logical analysis' (Bolitho 1997) -
    the patient should not be given antibiotics just to make them go away and leave you alone - tempting though it may be!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Please note:
    Burke R (on the application of) v GMC 2006:

    'No healthcare professional can be forced to provide a treatment that is inappropirate, unnecessary and/or futile'

    I use this Court of Human Rights ruling every day of my working life for those patients who demand antibiotics for viral illnesses or any other demand for treatment to which it may be relevant.

    As long as your clinical rationale withstands 'logical analysis' (Bolitho 1997) -
    the patient should not be given antibiotics just to make them go away and leave you alone - tempting though it may be!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is such old news. I dont believe any Doctors (or nurses) can be prescribing antibiotics unecessarily anymore. It's a bit patronising really.

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