Telling patients to stop taking antibiotics when they feel better may be preferable to instructing them to finish the course, according to a group of experts who argue that the rule long embedded in the minds of doctors and the public is wrong and should be overturned. Patients have traditionally been told that they must complete courses of antibiotics, the theory being that taking too few tablets will allow the bacteria causing their disease to mutate and become resistant to the drug. But Martin Llewelyn, a professor in infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex medical school, and colleagues claim that this is not the case. In an analysis in the British Medical Journal, the experts say “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”.
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