Survey: Physicians continue to prescribe antibiotics they know won't work
CHICAGO — Repeated warnings that antibiotics don't work for most sore throats and bronchitis have failed to stop overuse: Doctors prescribed these drugs for most adults seeking treatment at a rate that remained high over more than a decade, researchers found.
The results are in two analyses of national health surveys from the late 1990s to 2010, representing more than 2 million annual visits to doctors' offices or emergency rooms.
Antibiotics can have bad side effects, including stomach pain and severe diarrhea, and inappropriate prescriptions put patients at needless risk. The practice can cause drug-resistant germs.
The findings show reducing inappropriate prescribing “is frustratingly, disappointingly slow,” said Dr. Jeffrey Linder, a physician-researcher at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. He did the research with Brigham colleague Dr. Michael Barnett.
Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said part of the problem is prescribing habits that didn't change when evidence emerged showing most sore throats and bronchitis are caused by viruses; antibiotics only treat infections caused by bacteria, not colds, flu and other illness from viruses. Illnesses antibiotics can treat include bacterial pneumonia, most urinary infections, some types of eye and ear infections, and some types of food poisoning.
Patients' demands and doctors' time pressures play a role: It's often easier to prescribe an antibiotic than to take time to explain why they don't work for some illnesses, Blackwelder said.
“We've all done it,” he said.
Dr. Ed Septimus, a professor at Texas A&M Health Science Center in Houston, said development of more rapid testing to identify germs that cause sore throats or bronchitis could help curb the practice.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Suspect in killings of wealthy D.C. family arrested
- Ex-Va. lawmaker plans to wed teen in sex scandal
- Senators push for full funding for Amtrak
- 6 Baltimore officers indicted in Gray’s death
- Eldest Duggar child admits to molesting girls as teen
- Experts cited concerns with medical scope infections in ‘09
- Texan bags black rhino in benefit hunt
- Obama trade bill advances in Senate
- Dogs split from the wolf pack earlier than thought, DNA analysis suggests
- Suspect in killings of wealthy DC family arrested
- Police release video of person of interest in D.C. slaying