Delaying delayed prescriptions

Sometimes GPs give patients with respiratory infections a prescription for an antibiotic but tell them to take the medication only if their symptoms do not improve. GPs usually put the date of the consultation on these delayed prescriptions. Canadian researchers have investigated if postdating the prescription reduces the use of antibiotics.

This study involved six GPs, two nurse practitioners, and 149 patients with acute upper respiratory tract infections. If immediate treatment was not necessary, the patients were randomly given a delayed prescription or a prescription dated for two days after the consultation.

The local pharmacies reported that 32 of the 74 delayed prescriptions were collected, versus 33 of the 75 post-dated prescriptions. Although the patients had been told to start antibiotics only if they had not improved within two days, 16 patients in each group collected their prescriptions early. Seven patients wanted their prescription immediately.