Our View: Too many prescriptions

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:18 PM

Editorial Board

According to the University of Utah School of Medicine researchers, too many doctors are prescribing strong antibiotics to patients when the patients don’t even need the antibiotic. The research shows that more than three-fifths of the time, doctors select broad spectrum antibiotics. However, about 25 percent of the time, the research showed, the infection a patient had was due to a virus, which an antibiotic cannot treat.

Probably the most simple reason for the excess of antibiotics is doctor caution. If not sure of the type of infection, doctors may err on the side of caution. There’s also malpractice fears; doctors don’t want to get sued.

But there is a downside to overprescribing antibiotics when the infection does not call for it. As Dr. Adam L. Hersh, senior author of the University of Utah study, says, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics if they are put into our bodies too often. If that happens, the antibiotics won’t work as well when they are needed. Dr. Hersh suggests that doctors should consider holding off on antibiotics to see if a patient’s body can heal on its own.

That’s good advice, but unfortunately we are in an era where many of us want something that will make the pain go away ... fast. When we go to the doctor we expect to receive something for the pain or ailment. Many of us feel we’ve been deprived of care if we leave the office without a prescription. We shun aspirin for something with extra strength, or better yet, a prescription pain killer. We have an infection of some sort, so we automatically assume we need antibiotics.

This is a difficult trend to stop when it is sanctioned by doctors, who should be able to tell patients when they don’t need to visit the pharmacy. But patients have to take the initiative too.

The boom in prescription drug use is something that would shock previous generations. It’s created a greater dependency on drugs. This has led to thousands of prescription drug abuse deaths, as well as a criminal addiction boom, that would have been far less common in the past.

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