- Antibiotics only work against bacterial
- Family doctors are giving antibiotics
to patients when they know the drugs will have no benefit, according to
Health Which? magazine.
- The publication says over 15% of the
patients it surveyed were wrongly prescribed antibiotics for infections
such as flu, coughs and sore throats - these are nearly always caused by
viruses which are not affected by antibiotics.
- The unnecessary overprescribing of anitbiotics
is undesirable because it encourages the emergence of drug-resistant strains
of bacteria - so-called "superbugs" like MRSA which defy conventional
- In April, a House of Lords inquiry into
the issue suggested that patients were at least partly to blame for the
over-use of drugs and concluded that patients' expectations were a major
factor affecting the prescribing behaviour of GPs.
- But Sally Williams, who conducted the
investigation for Health Which?, said it was unfair to blame the problem
- "We found that doctors were not
explaining that antibiotics had no effect on viruses, and were simply dishing
out tablets to save time," she said.
- The survey found many of those surveyed
were confused by what antibiotics could and could not do. Eighty per cent
of respondents said they knew that nothing could cure colds or flu, but
in response to another question, 45% thought antibiotics did kill viruses.
- Patient pressure
- Dr George Rae, chairman of the BMA's
GP prescribing sub-committee, accepted that there was some degree of overprescribing
- "But in no way can the medical profession
be accused of prescribing antibiotics in a cavalier fashion," he said.
- "Some good may come out of this
report if it helps to ease the undoubted pressure and sometimes pressure
from patients for the prescribing of antibiotics."
- "In some cases this is for conditions,
such as sore throats and middle ear infection, which in the majority of
cases are viral in origin."