Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Font Size

Doctors, Patients Rely on Antibiotics

By Ashley Hayes
WebMD Health News

June 27, 2014 -- While both health care professionals and the public seem to be aware of the problem of antibiotic resistance, a new survey shows that when it comes to your personal health, it may be a different story.

According to a new WebMD/Medscape survey, some 95% of health care professionals say they sometimes prescribe antibiotics to patients even when they aren’t sure they’re needed.

Doctors prescribe antibioticsMore than half of health care professionals (53%) say they're “certain enough” to prescribe them, and only 12% do it most of the time. Others who prescribe them say they aren’t sure whether a patient’s illness is viral or bacterial, and the lab work to determine that may take too long. Eleven percent say they believe an antibiotic won’t hurt and could help.

Those most likely to prescribe antibiotics were emergency doctors (24.4%), followed by family medicine doctors (23.6%), although the percentages did not vary widely among the specialities included: internal medicine, pediatrics, and women’s health.

Patients, meanwhile, say they sometimes ask for antibiotics when they’re not sure they're needed, most often for themselves (21%).When told that antibiotics aren't needed, 72% say they accepted that advice. But 9% say they were asked if they still wanted antibiotics even if they weren’t needed, and accepted them.

Only 3% said they were denied antibiotics after being told they weren’t needed and requesting them again.

While most people understand the concept of antibiotic resistance, they still think the drugs will help them feel better and get them back to work as soon as possible.

Eighty-five percent of patients say they requested antibiotics because they felt it would cure their illness, and 65% say they asked for them in order to feel better quickly. Forty-four percent say they needed to get back to work as soon as possible. And 25% say they believe antibiotics always work, no matter the illness.

Daniel McQuillen, MD, a past chairman of the clinical affairs committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, says the results show that both doctors and consumers need better education about how to use antibiotics. At least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, resulting in at least 23,000 deaths, according to the CDC. The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistance "an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society."

"It's clear that we're approaching a cliff with antibiotic resistance,” says CDC director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “But it's not too late. Clinicians and health care systems need to improve prescribing practices. And patients need to recognize that there are both risks and benefits to antibiotics — more medicine isn't best; the right medicine at the right time is best."

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat