Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A GP unable to prescribe antibiotics is like...?

A (non-medic) friend recently tweeted this story from the BBC to me. The headline commands GPs 'must cut use of antibiotics'. His additional tongue-in-cheek note was "is this your career unravelling?" peddling the longstanding myth that antibiotics form the solitary weapon in a GP's armoury.

The latest diktat is from the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control and warns against inappropriate antibiotic use and increasing bacterial resistance. This is nothing new. Fortunately the powers that be have realised that the situation is not down to an incestuous relationship between GPs and drug companies but public (un)awareness. The government apparently launched a major advertising campaign earlier this year telling people that antibiotics do not work on coughs or colds.

Anecdotally patients I've seen seem less resistant to the idea that rest, fluids and over the counter medicines should see them through a viral illness. My family have stopped asking me for advice, safe in the knowledge that they can pre-empt my suggestion of "take some paracetamol and let's review things in a couple of weeks".

This year the picture's been complicated somewhat by the perpetual fear of swine flu that appears to be regarded by most patients as just a notch down in severity from the bubonic plague. An interesting result of the heightened swine flu awareness though does appear to be an increasing appreciation that antibiotics do not treat viruses.

What are your experiences?