Should you finish a course of antibiotics?

From BBC - July 26, 2017

It is time to reconsider the widespread advice that people should always complete an entire course of antibiotics, experts in the BMJ say.

They argue there is not enough evidence to back the idea that stopping pills early encourages antibiotic resistance.

Instead, they suggest, more studies need to be done to see if other strategies - such as stopping once feeling better - can help cut antibiotic use.

But GPs urge people not to change their behaviour in the face of one study.

'Short and tailored'

The opinion piece, by a team of researchers from across England, argues that reducing the use of antibiotics is essential to help combat the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Prof Martin Llewelyn, from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, together with colleagues, argues that using antibiotics for longer than necessary can increase the risk of resistance.

He suggests traditional long prescriptions for antibiotics were based on the outdated idea that resistance to an antibiotic could develop when a drug was not taken for a lengthy time and an infection was undertreated.

Instead, he says, there is now growing evidence that short courses of antibiotics - lasting three to five days, for example - work just as well to treat many bugs.

He accepts there are a few exceptions - for example, giving just one type of antibiotic for TB or HIV infections - which is known to lead to rapid resistance.

But the team says it is important to move away from blanket prescriptions and, with more research, give antibiotic prescriptions that are tailored to each infection and each person.

The study acknowledges that hospitals are increasingly reviewing the need for antibiotics from day to day and that there is a growing trend towards shorter courses of drugs.


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