A BMJ article yesterday provided strong evidence that doctors who prescribe antibiotics at high rates for respiratory tract infections are not, in fact, protecting their patients from serious bacterial complications such as meningitis.
This finding negates the ‘patient safety’ claim repeatedly pulled out by some high-prescribers to justify their practice of using antibiotics for colds. They typically recall an awful case of mastoiditis (ear-bone infection) they once treated, then suggest that the researchers must be heartless not to want to prevent it.
I have always resisted the urge to point out that, logically, the more anecdotes these high-prescribers produce, the less it would appear that their prescribing practices actually prevent these bacterial complications!
I resist that urge because, of course, fighting anecdote with anecdote is not how good evidence works. Happily, this study now provides the missing evidence.
Please note: the antibiotic problem certainly doesn’t lie with GPs alone – quite rightly, we need to look at antibiotic use in hospitals, specialists’ rooms, the agricultural industry, and third-world countries with minimal regulation etc. And of course, thousands of GPs do the right thing, and our profession deserves credit for talking about the issue openly.
But who am I to hold back when writing for a GP audience?
Article published in Medical Observer today:
Every medical media article highlighting antibiotic over-prescription of for respiratory tract infections (RTIs) seems to attract at least one doctor’s comment about Continue reading