Over Prescribed: Do Doctors Still Hand Out Too Many Antibiotics?

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem. While the problem is widely accepted by the medical community, there are different schools of thought regarding its origins.

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Are doctors over prescribing antibiotics?

One common theory is that doctors are over prescribing antibiotics, doling them out without giving enough thought to whether what they’re trying to treat is viral or bacterial (antibiotics are only effective in treating bacterial infections). In the spring of last year, the American Board of Internal Medicine’s Choosing Wisely campaign announced that nine medical specialty societies had compiled lists of 45 tests or treatments that they deemed to be overused in their fields. Among the recommendations was a call for doctors to re-think the use of antibiotics in certain situations. It’s also becoming more common for hospitals to require doctors to submit their rationale for every dose of antibiotic they prescribe.

Others emphasize that diagnosing an infection is not an exact science and that doctors will inevitably make mistakes in prescribing antibiotics. But pressuring doctors not to prescribe them will lead the pendulum to swing in the other direction, preventing patients who need antibiotics from receiving them, with potentially dire consequences.

Dr. Matthew Hoffman commented on this recent call for doctors to be more prudent in prescribing antibiotics in a blog post on kevinmd.com:

“While there are surely some penicillin-pushers among us, slinging antibiotics at anyone with a chief complaint, I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of physicians prescribe antibiotics to one group of patients: those who they think might have an infection. Maybe even an infection that could get seriously worse if untreated.”

Whatever the solution to antibiotic resistance may be, it’s important for consumers to be involved in their own care: participate in a dialogue with your doctor about what you’re prescribed and why, and voice your concerns if you disagree with the treatment plan.

Have you ever been prescribed antibiotics for what turned out to be a viral infection? Tell us about it!

Sources: kevinmd.com and time.com