UCL News


UCL in the News: Antibiotics overprescribed

21 August 2007

Recent research led by Dr Andrew Hayward [UCL Primary Care & Population Sciences] found that, despite official guidelines, GPs are prescribing too many antibiotics for common infections.

His survey, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, showed that antibiotic prescription varied widely according to the condition, with 44% of upper respiratory tract infections (coughs and colds), 64% of sore throats over 80% of chest infections and sinusitis receiving prescriptions for antibiotics.

"The majority of simple coughs, colds and sore throats are viral, and those that are bacterial only benefit a little from antibiotics because they will get better anyway. GPs are prescribing more antibiotics than necessary for these conditions," Hayward says.

The reasons for this trend are complex. "Historically, antibiotics have been seen as a harmless way of treating people, even though the evidence for their effectiveness on some infections hasn't been great," says Hayward. "Doctors are also concerned about the risk of complications [the infection spreading from localised to systemic] even though such a risk for most common infections is low." …

Deborah Cohen, 'The Guardian'