Dr. Kevin Kavanagh woke up one morning with a sore throat and felt weak. He did what many of us would do in that situation: go to the doctor. He told the health clinic to order him a throat culture to rule out strep. His thinking was that if he didn’t have strep, he would not take an antibiotic that would make him more vulnerable to a more serious infection such as C.diff. Ironically, the day before he had attended a conference on antibiotic resistant bacteria. Dr. Kavanagh received good news: his test results were negative for strep.
But his doctor recommended he take antibiotics anyway. This recommendation didn’t make sense to Kevin, also a doctor, and his mind was still fresh on the topic of antibiotic resistance. Said Kevin, “I knew that I should not take an antibiotic needlessly and I most certainly should not take the wrong antibiotic for a sore throat.” Feeling too sick to argue with the doctor, Kevin walked away with a prescription in his hand wondering how it must be for patients in a similar situation. In the end, he decided not to fill the prescription. His sore throat cleared up on its own in a few days.
What would you have done if your doctor prescribed you unnecessary or questionable antibiotics? As patients, it can be hard to challenge our doctors but it’s important to be informed and question your doctor if you feel their advice isn’t right. Before your next doctor visit, be sure to check out Consumer Reports’ helpful (and free) guides on appropriate antibiotic use. Antibiotic resistance is a widespread problem caused by overuse and misuse of antibiotics in health care settings and animal farms. Consumers Union is working hard to make sure we keep antibiotics working for people who really need them.
Dr. Kevin Kavanagh’s antibiotic story was featured in JAMA Internal Medicine’s series Less is More. A member of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project network, Kevin is the board chairman of the Kentucky-based nonprofit Health Watch USA and publishes monthly newsletters on patient safety. You can read his latest op-ed on hospital rankings in the Kentucky Herald-Leader here.