This post is part of our “Ask an Expert” blog series. In this post, Ken Majkowski, Pharm.D and Chief Pharmacy Officer at FamilyWize , addresses the common question: “Do I need to finish my antibiotic if I feel better?” Ken brings more than 40 years of healthcare experience to the FamilyWize team, including 14 years of clinical pharmacy experience in retail, hospital, and home care. Read his full bio, here .
Most of us have been told over and over again that it is critical to finish a full course of antibiotics as prescribed, even if your symptoms have disappeared. However, over the last year, you may have seen several news stories suggesting that finishing antibiotics after you feel better may not be necessary (e.g. CBSNews.com and Forbes.com ).
So which is it? Should you finish your next course of antibiotics or stop when you feel better?
The answer, like so many things related to prescription medication, is to ASK FIRST.
Often, news stories generalize to make all antibiotics sound the same. In reality, there are a myriad of reasons why a doctor might prescribe an antibiotic. In some cases, it might be perfectly fine to stop when you feel better. In other situations, discontinuing treatment too soon might open the door to a dangerous infection or other risk.
It is also important to remember that the studies referenced by the media are relatively new. More research is needed to fully understand how antibiotic use may evolve in the future.
As a patient, the smartest thing you can do is to ask about each and every prescription you receive.
As you are taking a medication, always speak up if you have any concerns. Your pharmacist and your prescribing doctor would much rather adjust or change your treatment, rather than see you stop on your own midway through.
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