Why Does Your GP Want Your Opinion on That Nasty Cold You Have?

This week is apparently World Antibiotic Awareness Week. If you already knew that, you’re either a microbiologist or have far too much time on your hands. In the spirit of that, I’ve had a look at what’s new in the world of antibiotics.

Last week, the Cochrane Library published a new paper looking at shared decision making and its effect on antibiotic prescribing trends.

The review analysed the results of nine randomised controlled trials, and found that if doctors and patients share the decision to prescribe antibiotics, less prescriptions are given out.

Importantly, this reduction occurred without a drop in patient satisfaction or an increase in repeat consultations for the same illness.

In other words, chatting about antibiotics means less are prescribed and there’s no significant downsides. Sounds like a win-win situation.


For those of you not convinced, and who still want antibiotics for that persistent earache, here’s a few things to bear in mind.

  1. Viruses can cause illnesses that last longer than you think, and that are worse than you think.
  2. Antibiotics will do nothing for these viral illnesses
  3. If you take antibiotics when you don’t need them, you expose yourself to unnecessary harm. Not a huge amount, but there’s no point getting a bout of nausea and heartburn when you don’t need one. To be honest, you never really need one.

While shared decision making is unlikely to be enough to reverse the rising tide of antibiotic resistance, anything which leads to a reduction of unnecessary prescriptions is good for patients, good for the NHS and good for the taxpayers who actually pay for all of this.


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