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Antibiotics: New Report Says You Should Stop When You Feel Better


doctor giving antibiotics All your life, when receiving a doctor’s prescription for an antibiotic, you’ve been warned to take the full amount even after you start feeling better. Is this directive grounded in science? Could it be wrong? According to a report in the British Medical Journal, this admonition that has been drilled into us may be in error.

The theory behind the advice given to patients for the past 50 years is that the failure to take a full antibiotic prescription will leave behind dangerous infection-causing microbes that are resistant to treatment. Doctors have thought that when these drug-resistant bacteria aren’t killed, they will eventually propagate and produce superbugs.

“However, the idea that stopping antibiotic treatment early encourages antibiotic resistance is not supported by evidence, while taking antibiotics for longer than necessary increases the risk of resistance,” said the authors, a group of 10 senior scientists.

Evidence Supports Stopping Antibiotics Early

The authors of the report trawled the medical literature and found it doesn’t support the arbitrary time that people are told to take antibiotics, which ranges from two to ten days or even longer. Therefore, they are recommending that people stop as soon as they feel better to curtail the global superbug problem. They contend that the “complete the course” mantra defies common sense to stop taking medicine when you are no longer sick. Moreover, they believe the practice probably frees up space in the colon for the disease-causing bacteria to multiply.

“There is evidence that in many situations stopping antibiotics sooner is a safe and effective way to reduce antibiotic overuse,” the report said. “There are reasons to believe the public will accept that completing the course to prevent resistance is wrong, if the medical profession openly acknowledges that this is so.”

This report isn’t the first dissenting voice against the complete-the-course viewpoint. In a 1998 report published in Lancet, Professor Harold Lambert said, “Antibiotic resistance is more likely to be encouraged by longer than by shorter courses.” Somehow, the message didn’t resonate at that time. Perhaps because the superbug concern has grown considerably since then, the medical community is now taking it more seriously.

How Did the “Complete the Course” Mantra Originate?

In an interview with NPR, coauthor Tim Peto explains that they found the first mention of the mantra 70 years ago in a speech given by Alexander Fleming, the winner of the Nobel Prize who discovered penicillin. When he commented in 1945 that people should finish the course, he could not have foreseen the antibiotic resistance that has arisen in modern times.

Golden Age of Antibiotics Is Nearing an End

The golden age of antibiotics that started with Fleming’s discovery is coming to an end. After the advent of these wonder drugs, the problem of infections was solved for the most part and countless lives were saved. Before the widespread emergence of resistant strains of bacteria, it didn’t matter how long people took their prescription. Now, it is a different story, and common pathogenic microbes are regaining their power to cause deaths.

The more antibiotics are used, the more opportunities the resistance strains have to emerge. Because antibiotics have been overprescribed and even fed to livestock, bacteria are increasingly mutating to a form that can’t be eradicated. This ubiquitous use led to superbugs that threaten global health.

Due to the pandemic of serious infections that may be coming, scientists are working to gain more control over the use of antibiotics. The World Health Organization recently created a “reserve” list of antibiotics that should be saved for use only in dire cases.

New Report Ignites Debate

Responses to the new report that oppose taking the full course of antibiotics has produced debate within the medical community. Some doctors have pointed out that although a quantity of compelling studies lend credence to its admonition, other research shows taking antibiotics for a specified timeframe for certain condition is essential for a successful outcome.

So what is a patient to do? Peto recommends following your physician’s instructions. He says the report seeks to empower doctors to shorten a course of antibiotics, depending on a patient’s condition and his or her response to treatment.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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