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Finishing antibiotics course unnecessary: BMJ


Finishing antibiotics course unnecessary: BMJ

The deeply embedded message that patients should “complete the course” of antibiotics to avoid antibiotic resistance is not backed by evidence and should be dropped, argue experts in The BMJ today.

In fact, patients are put at unnecessary risk from antibiotic resistance when treatment is given for longer than necessary, not when it is stopped early, say Professor Martin Llewelyn at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and colleagues.

They say it’s time for policy makers, educators, and doctors to drop this message and state that this was not evidence-based and is incorrect.

Antibiotics are vital to modern medicine and antibiotic resistance is a global, urgent threat to human health. Public communication about antibiotics often emphasises that patients who fail to complete prescribed antibiotic courses put themselves and others at risk of antibiotic resistance.

However, the idea that stopping antibiotic treatment early encourages antibiotic resistance is not supported by evidence, while taking antibiotics for longer than necessary increases the risk of resistance, explain the authors.

One reason it may be so resilient is that it is simple and unambiguous, and the behaviour it advocates is clearly defined and easy to carry out, they suggest. Nevertheless, there is evidence that, in many situations, stopping antibiotics sooner is a safe and effective way to reduce antibiotic overuse. There are notable exceptions for some types of antibiotic, such as those used to treat tuberculosis.

Completing the course also goes against one of the most fundamental and widespread medication beliefs people have, which is that we should take as little medication as necessary, they add.

They call for research to determine the most appropriate simple alternative messages, such as stop when you feel better. The public should also be encouraged to recognise that antibiotics are a precious and finite natural resource that should be conserved by tailoring treatment duration for individual patients.

Finally, they say, clinical trials are required to determine the most effective strategies for optimising duration of antibiotic treatment.

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Anjali Nimesh

Anjali Nimesh

Anjali Nimesh Joined Medical Dialogue as Reporter in 2016. she covers all the medical specialty news in different medical categories. She also covers the Medical guidelines, Medical Journals, rare medical surgeries as well as all the updates in medical filed. She is a graduate from Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar University. She can be contacted at editorial@medicaldialogues.in Contact no. 011-43720751
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  1. user
    Paresh ratilal shah August 8, 2017, 5:22 pm

    In real life situation,
    Many patients don\’t complete antibiotics in India.
    Still they are getting alright.

  2. user
    Dr SUNIL WADHWA July 28, 2017, 10:19 am

    This news item also appeared in lay press like The Times of India. It has dangerous implications. What the authors recommend is not the conventional wisdom.
    After reading this news report,patients will not follow treating doctor\’s advice completely & faithfully,will use their own judgement to stop the treatment at their own will. They may not confess it to their treating doctor & may land up in an unfortunate situation or relapse thereby putting the blame on the treating doctor. These things which are REVOLUTIONARY & have major implications thus should not have been publicized by the lay press till it is an accepted fact.

  3. The real question is how many doctors do follow the new evidence. It may not be fully validated but evidences are showing in favor of stopping Abx as soon as infection is cured.