BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 



BBC News
The BBC's Richard Hannaford: 'Doctors' leaders say the problem is small'
 real 56k

BBC News
Health Which? magazine editor Charlotte Gann: 'The doctors have to take the lead'
 real 28k

BBC News
Dr George Rae: 'The way forward is about education'
 real 28k

Tuesday, 11 August, 1998, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Doctors accused of 'dishing out' antibiotics
Antibiotics
Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections
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 treatment.

Superbugs

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 on consumers.

"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 by doctors.

"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."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

23 Jun 98 | Health
Fears over antibiotic policy
05 Aug 98 | Sci/Tech
Bugs may defy popular antibiotics
13 May 98 | Sci/Tech
New antibiotics to beat the bugs
05 Aug 98 | UK
Fears over 'superbugs'
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories