By Lola Augustine Brown
Canadian seniors are being prescribed unnecessary antibiotics at alarming levels, according to newly released study results.
The Ontario-focused study, reported online in the journal Annals of Public Medicine, looked at data from 8,990 primary care physicians and 185,014 patients aged 66 or older who had non-bacterial acute upper respiratory tract infections including colds, acute bronchitis, acute sinusitis, and acute laryngitis; half (53.4%) had colds. Researchers found that 46% of patients had been prescribed antibiotics when they shouldn’t have been—antibiotics don‘t work against non-bacterial infections—and most of the prescriptions (69.9%) were for broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Why is this happening when we all know, and doctors in particular know, that the overuse of antibiotics creates antibiotic resistance and that they can have serious side effects? While the researchers had no information about the doctors’ reasons for prescribing, they were able to establish that the physicians most likely to prescribe antibiotics were those in mid- and late-career seeing the most patients in a day, as well as those who trained outside Canada or the United States.
If you’re concerned that your doctor is simply whipping off a prescription for antibiotics instead of actually figuring out the best treatment for you, challenge him or her. And don’t insist on antibiotics because you think they cure everything—they don’t.