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Antibiotics Friday, 8 October, 1999, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
Dos and don'ts of taking antibiotics
GP and patient
Antibiotics should only be prescribed for bacterial infections
Antibiotics are useful in combatting bacterial illnesses, but doctors say patients need to be aware of the do and don'ts of using them.

The Doctor Patient Partnership (DPP), a group set up by doctors and the government in 1996 to encourage sensible use of the NHS, urges patients to use antibiotics appropriately with its Antibiotics: Not a miracle cure! campaign.

The campaign includes an updated leaflet about problems associated with antibiotic use, such as inappropriate prescription and side effects like stomach upsets and thrush.

Women on the pill who take antibiotics may find that they reduce contraceptive protection, for example.

Dr Simon Fradd, chairman of the DPP, said: "It is better to have a sore throat than an unwanted pregnancy."

Other concerns about antibiotics include:

  • Patients who fail to take the full course of antibiotics prescribed for them.

    This can aid the rise of drug-resistant germs and is particularly worrying in the case of serious illnesses. In recent years, drug-resistant forms of diseases like tuberculosis have been noted in many countries around the world. These are thought to be a result of patients failing to finish courses of antibiotics.

  • Patients who forget to take their antibiotics at the times prescribed.

    Doctors should explain clearly when and how often the drugs should be taken. They say patients should take their pills at the same time each day to aid memory.

  • Some patients think they can share other people's antibiotics or use an unfinished course of antibiotics for another illness.

    Antibiotics are prescribed for a specific illness and a specific person and should not be shared.

    The full course of drugs should be finished so there should be no leftovers. A person may feel well, but there may still be bacteria left in their body which could cause a recurrence of the illness.

  • Patients who suffers from side effects on taking antibiotics.

    They should inform their GP as the dosage may be too high or they may respond better to a different course of antibiotics.

Dr Fradd said: "People should be aware that doctors need to prescribe antibiotics with care because inappropriate use can be dangerous for individual patients and for the whole population."
See also:

23 Jun 98 | Health
28 Sep 99 | Antibiotics
08 Sep 99 | Antibiotics
13 Nov 98 | Antibiotics
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