Why you shouldn’t fall out with your doctor for refusing to prescribe antibiotics

Researchers from King’s College London recently produced evidence that patients appear to be more “satisfied” with doctors who routinely prescribe antibiotics.

While that might be what many patients want, the truth is that it could actually be doing those patients a serious disservice.

Not only do antibiotics have no impact on certain infections, such as common viral infections, their overuse can lead to resistance, meaning that antibiotics could be ineffective at the times when they are most needed.

Antibiotics are one of the most important medical breakthroughs of all time, providing GPs and other clinicians with a powerful means of killing off many of the bugs that can make us poorly.

Not only are they used for treating infections, they can be used to help vulnerable patients from picking up bugs that could have serious consequences for their health.

Antibiotics work by disrupting the processes that bacteria need to survive, such as preventing the processes that bacteria use to produce new cells and reproduce.

They can be administered in a number of ways, including tablets, pills and medicines, topical treatments, and via intravenous injection.

Overuse of antibiotics has been blamed for the development of the so-called “superbugs” which have mutated to be resistant, including some headline grabbing examples including Clostridium difficile and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).

In parts of China, as well as in the UK, a strain of bacteria has been identified as showing resistance to an antibiotic often considered to be our ‘last resort’ treatment of choice.

Thankfully these bugs were not entirely resistant but emerging resistance to antibiotics is a significant cause for concern.

It’s worth taking time to understand that it isn’t always appropriate for your GP to prescribe antibiotic drugs.

In addition to not being effective for some infections, the use of antibiotics when they are not needed can lead to unnecessary side effects. Antibiotics can cause gastro-intestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as sensitivity reactions such as rashes. 

Public Health England along with other bodies such as the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have produced the TARGET (Treat Antibiotics Responsibly, Guidelines, Education and Tools) toolkit and the Get Well Soon leaflets for use by doctors and patients alike. 

They contain helpful summaries of how long symptoms associated with viral coughs, colds and sinusitis may last, as well as what to watch out for in worsening infections.

Try not to be offended or disappointed if your GP does not always prescribe antibiotics. They are only trying doing what’s best for you and everybody else.

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