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Network Matters
News and Information for the
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Network

November 2013

Do You Really Need to Prescribe an Antibiotic? 

“Doctor, I have had this cough for a couple of weeks. I’d like an antibiotic to get rid of this bug.” How many times have you heard this?

While the vast majority of acute bronchitis cases (more than 90%) have a non-bacterial cause, antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed 65%–80% of the time. As you know, because of overuse of antibiotics, certain bacteria have adapted to some commonly used antibiotics, making the bacteria more resistant to the effects of these important medications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies antibiotic overuse as one of its top concerns.

What can you do?

  • Don’t treat viral infections with antibiotics, even when patients ask for them.
  • Talk to your patients about the appropriate use, resistance, and side effects of antibiotics.
  • Post our “Do you really need an antibiotic?” poster in your office waiting room to educate patients on appropriate antibiotic use and raise awareness about antibiotic resistance.
  • Write a prescription for symptom relief, such as an over-the-counter cough medicine. The CDC’s viral prescription pad is a handy tool.

To receive copies of our “Do you really need an antibiotic?” poster for your waiting room, please call Harvard Pilgrim’s Clinical Program line at 800-287-9793.

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Eric H. Schultz,
President and Chief Executive Officer

Richard Weisblatt PhD,
Senior Vice President, Provider Network

Annmarie Dadoly,

Kristin Edmonston,
Production Coordinator