Big news today in the world of antibiotic medications. A new publication by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) is suggesting that patients may not need to take an entire course of antibiotics anymore to be cured of their illness. One of the first things that they teach you about counseling in pharmacy school is that you must encourage all patients to finish their entire course of antibiotics, even if they are feeling better, to ensure total microbial annihilation.
On the flip side, we also hear about antibiotic resistance. In these cases, our bodies become so immune to the magic of antibiotics, that they simply don’t work the way they should anymore. Therefore, the bacterial/parasitic germs aren’t able to be killed, and continue to make us sicker. Normally, antibiotic resistance is not to be worried about, unless there is misuse or overuse of antibiotics. It is not the person who becomes resistant to the antibiotic medication. Rather, it is the bacteria in our bodies that become resistant to the medication, changing in such a way that it is no longer killed by the antibiotic and instead continues to grow and multiply. Antibiotic resistance is a scary thing – simple bacterial infections that were once easily treated with a course of antibiotics could becoming life-threatening.
Resistance has become a serious problem today. Patients are too scared to take antibiotics that they need. Doctors are hesitant to prescribe antibiotics under a trial and error basis for an unknown microbial cause, for fear of causing a resistance. These are all very serious and legitimate concerns, but sometimes, antibiotics are a must. With the new antibiotic guidelines published by JAMA, doctors and researchers claim that “Shorter is Better”. As with any medication, the shorter you have to take it, the more likely a patient is to stay adherent or continue taking it as prescribed. A shorter course of antibiotics may also help to prevent bacterial resistance from occurring as quickly or as often as it does now. As a disclaimer, patients should always take their medication as prescribed by their doctor, especially an antibiotic. The article in JAMA states that patients may no longer need to continue taking antibiotics past the time of symptom relief. If patients no longer feel the need to continue their antibiotics, they should always talk to their doctor and ask if continued therapy is advised.
This is a very interesting development in the world of medicine. It just goes to show you how fast and dynamic pharmacy is! I just saw on social media how some of my newly graduated Pharm.D friends are scrambling to advise patients in line with the new guidelines, which are completely different from what they spent 4 years learning in school!
Until next time,