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Over-prescribing antibiotics

DOCTORS AND pharmacies are prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily, according to a study carried out by Portugal’s leading consumer rights group.

The accusations have been made by the Associação Portuguesa para a Defesa dos Consumidores (DECO) in a study published in the April edition of their health magazine Teste Saúde.

DECO sent representatives to 58 private consultants and nine health centres where they made false complaints of having a sore throat and pain when swallowing without any other symptoms.

In 37 cases, doctors prescribed antibiotics straight away without the patient expressing any desire to have them.

Six doctors provided a prescription for antibiotics, but instructed the patient that it should only be used if further symptoms, such as a fever appeared. Although this attitude is more cautious, “it continues to facilitate access to antibiotics,” said the report.

Only three clinics instructed the patients to wait: the Clinica d’Avenida in Faro, Jardim da Piedade in Almada (Lisbon) and the Nossa Senhora da Saude e Notre Dame in Porto.


DECO also sent 90 representatives to pharmacies complaining of a sore throat and requesting antibiotics without a prescription. Eight of these pharmacies sold medicine that required mandatory medical prescription “without any problem”.

As a result of the study, DECO is requesting the Ministry of Health takes preventative measures to control the consumption of antibiotics and compiled a list of suitable measurements to put in place.

According to the report, “it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health to make a strong investment in campaigns to educate the consumers about the dangers of the irresponsible use of antibiotics. Users have to be persuaded not to ask for these medicines from professionals.”

The association also thinks it is fundamental to create “rules of good practice” that clearly state when, how much and what, they should receive in terms of prescription medicine.

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