Turns out, all of us lazy antibiotic-takers may have been doing it right all along.

It’s a line we’ve heard repeatedly from doctors and parents and pharmacists—and (didn’t I say repeatedly?) parents again.

“You need to take the full course of antibiotics, otherwise it (whatever ‘it’ is) will come back.”

Even if you don’t feel the need for three tablets a day, six days after your rash has disappeared.

Even if you really want to have a glass (or four) of wine on Saturday night and you know taking antibiotics leading up to the weekend is going to make Sunday a living hell.

Even if you really are better and hate how loopy the tablets make you feel.

All these excuses always fall on deaf ears because the advice has always been: “You need to take the full course of antibiotics.”


Experts in the UK now are questioning the widely-held belief, arguing the deeply embedded message puts patients at unnecessary risk of antibiotic resistance.

What you don’t know about your body. Post continues below.

In an editorial published in the BMJ, Martin Llewelyn, Professor of Infectious Diseases, and colleagues at Brighton and Sussex Medical School say it’s time for policy makers and doctors to drop this message, AAP reports.

They say there is “little evidence” that stopping treatment early is harmful.

“Currently, we make indication specific recommendations for antibiotic duration that are based on poor evidence,” the report states. “In hospital practice, biomarkers of treatment response can guide when to stop antibiotic treatment.”

“Outside the hospital, patients might be best advised to stop treatment when they feel better, in direct contradiction of WHO (World Health Organisation) advice.”

Turns out, all us lazy-antibiotic-takers have been doing it right all along. Image via iStock.

No evidence exists that stopping antibiotic treatment early increases a patient's risk of bacterial infection returning, the experts said.

However, not everyone is convinced.

For while Sanjaya Senanayake, associate professor of infectious diseases at Australian National University agrees that it's a conversation worth having—he also believes further research is necessary.

"We don't want to reduce antibiotic resistance at the expense of people getting complications because their infection wasn't treated properly in the first place," Senanayake told AAP.

"For example Golden Staph in the blood stream we treat for two weeks with intravenous antibiotics because we know if you treat less than that there's a chance it could come back and if it does there's a significantly bad outcome."

As well as this, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says there will be no change in prescribing recommendations just yet.

"As more clinical evidence comes into play we will reflect that in our guidelines but we need to be sure we are not doing any harm," said Dr Tony Bartone, vice president of the AMA.

- With AAP 

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