Misuse of antibiotics: More public education, trust in doctors needed

The findings in the study on antibiotic use are not surprising ("Most GP patients wrong on antibiotic use: Study"; Nov 29).

Many doctors in primary care as well as in hospitals often have to face patients' and their family members' wrath when they demand that doctors prescribe antibiotics.

The misuse of antibiotics has led to the emergence of multidrug-resistant superbugs.

On the other hand, I have also seen patients deteriorating or succumbing to bacteria when they refuse to take antibiotics.

Singaporeans are generally poorly informed and lack discernment in medical knowledge.

The public needs more education and a balanced view on the use of antibiotics. Perhaps an annual exhibition on this could be organised.

Patients must also cooperate with their doctors. Much of the insistence on the unnecessary use of antibiotics stems from a lack of trust between patients and the profession.

Brief and inadequate consultation is one cause of the lack of trust and cooperation.

Doctors, on their part, must not rush through consultations. Sufficient time must be spent in explaining the diagnosis and the condition to patients.

They should explain to patients the reasons for prescribing antibiotics. Only then can we improve compliance.

Doctors should also explain to patients the proper use of antibiotics, for example, in completing the full course of the medication.

Patients should not doctor-hop in the event that their conditions do not improve. They should also not self-medicate with antibiotics.

Hopefully, with better public understanding, doctors will be less pressured by patients to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily, and there will be fewer antibiotics-related problems such as superbugs.

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline 'Misuse of antibiotics: More public education, trust in doctors needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe