I’ve discussed before how the misdiagnosis of viral infections, typically respiratory illnesses, leads to massive improper use of antibiotics. It’s a problem in the UK too. From ScripNews (subscription only):
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat up to 80% of cases of sore throat, otitis media, upper respiratory tract infections and sinusitis in England and Wales, even though official guidance advises against this, a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy has revealed.
The study was undertaken on behalf of the specialist advisory committee on antimicrobial resistance (SACAR), which was established in 2001 to advise on problems regarding antimicrobial resistance. Data were gathered using the general practice research database of consultations and prescriptions with researchers examining all consultations between 1998 and 2001.
Although the prescribing of antibiotics to treat respiratory tract infections fell in the 1990s, doctors continued to prescribe them to treat apparently virus-induced conditions, says the study. This practice contributes to the increasing resistance of disease-causing bacteria to drugs. According to the study, GPs often consider whether the patient has been prescribed antibiotics in the past for the same condition to determine whether or not to prescribe an antibiotic.
[the noise you’re hearing is the Mad Biologist banging his head against the table]
But it gets better (italics mine):
Another study undertaken on behalf of SACAR and sponsored by the department of health (and published in the same journal) revealed that patient awareness of the problems of prescribing antibiotics for viral infections was not associated with a lower likelihood of being prescribed an antibiotic. This study–in which 7,120 patients took part–also showed that good understanding of how to take antibiotics did not necessarily correspond to correct compliance. For example, patients who knew that the full course of antibiotics should always be completed said that they would keep left over antibiotics for subsequent use.
And now my head does this: