Inappropriate Use of Antibiotics

A recurring topic here on DiseaseProof is the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. According to Dr. Fuhrman antibiotics are too often prescribed for conditions that when treated with proper nutrition will resolve naturally, without medication—ear infections are a big one. More from a previous post entitled Childhood Ear Infections: A Multibillion-Dollar Industry:
Studies also point to the fact that most ear infections early in life are viral, not bacterial.1 The vast majority of ear infections resolve nicely on their own, whether bacterial or viral, without an antibiotic. It is a common practice in this country to treat all ear infections with an antibiotic. Whether bacterial or not, our children get a routine prescription for an antibiotic at every minor illness. This cycle often is repeated many times, which may beget other medical problems in adulthood…


…Another international study following over 3,000 children treated by general practitioners in nine countries showed that antibiotics did not improve the rate of recovery from ear infections. Nearly 98 percent of U.S. physicians in the survey prescribed antimicrobials routinely, the highest percentage of all countries surveyed.2 The variable showing the strongest relationship with protection from ear infections was breast-feeding.3
So after considering all this, I wasn’t exactly surprised by the contents of this report from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Apparently a lot of patients associate antibiotics with pain-management, which doesn’t appear to be a good thing. Read on:
"Our study suggests that the patient's desire for an antibiotic may be based on the mistaken view that this treatment is best for pain relief," say Mieke van Driel, M.D., M.Sc., of the department of general practice and primary health care at Ghent University, Belgium, and the other authors. They call for a clinical trial "to find out whether exploring patients' expectations about treatment for pain and offering adequate analgesic treatment can assist physicians in the management of sore throats more often without prescribing antibiotics."
Now, I’m sure most people can relate to this. When you’re hurting, priority one is stopping the pain, and in a distant second is determining the source or cause of your discomfort. So with this being said, I decided to get a professional opinion on the AAFP’s report. And here’s what Dr. Fuhrman had to say:
Everyone knows antibiotics are overused by physicians and that they are dangerous drugs. So called “Lyme Disease” specialists and some of the labs that support them are some of the worst offenders, repeatedly falsely diagnosing patients with chronic Lyme, and giving antibiotics because they can relieve pain and make patients feel better from a host of potential causes. All physicians should work aggressively to curtail unnecessary antibiotic use.


Most doctors want to please their patients and they want to do it quickly and move to the next patient as soon as they can. Patients often expect them for common respiratory illnesses and many doctors comply with their wishes. Antibiotics as a solution work great; they enable the doctor to maintain their important role in the eyes of the patients, reinforce the value of doctor visits, and allow the patient to think their care was indispensable. The only problem is that most prescriptions are either not needed, or not in the best long-term interest of the patients.

Nutritional excellence practically negates the need for most prescriptions such as those prescribed for headaches, cholesterol lowering, high blood pressure and diabetes. Antibiotics are more dangerous, than most physicians and their patients consider. I believe much more care should be taken to restrict antibiotic use to only the most severe infections and documented bacterial conditions.

1. Leiva PB, Inzunza BN, Perez TH, et al. The impact of malnutrition on brain development, intelligence and school work performance. Arch Latinoam Nutr 2001;1(1):64-71.

2. French SA, Lin BH, Guthrie JF. National trends in soft drink consumption among children and adolescents age 6 to 17 years: prevalence, amounts, and sources, 1977/1978 to 1994/1998. J Am Diet Assoc 2003;103(10):1326-1331.

3. Muntner P, He J, Cutler JA, et al. Trends in blood pressure among children and adolescents. JAMA 2004;291:2107-2113.

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Kim - December 20, 2006 12:21 PM

I was fortunate enough to work many years ago with an emergency physician who took the ear-infections-are-mostly-viral approach. I was amazed and so were most of the parents, but he was on the cutting edge of this research!

What I see a lot now is the "wait and see" approach to antibiotic use. We take care of the pain of an ear infection, which is really what the parents want, and give them a prescription to use "if" the patient is not better by three days and even then we tell them to see their regular pediatrician.

So...it seems the studies are affecting practice, at least in my experience! And I agree - people want to be out of pain - that is the main goal when they seek treatment.

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