Call to stop ‘complete the course’ for antibiotics

An article in the British Medical Journal has argued that the traditional ‘complete the course‘ advise given to patients who take antibiotics is not backed by scientific evidence. It may be prudent that patients should only take antibiotics until they feel better, argued a team led by Professor Martin Llewelyn at Brighton and Sussex Medical School.


Stopping antibiotic use as soon as possible was an effective way of reducing people’s reliance on antibiotics. Patients should be “encouraged to recognise that antibiotics are a precious and finite natural resource that should be conserved by tailoring treatment duration for individual patients. Clinical trials are required to determine the most effective strategies for optimising duration of antibiotic treatment”.

Most people also believed that we should take as little medication as possible and therefore telling people to continue taking antibiotics even after they feel better contradicted the patients beliefs.

Reducing people’s use of antibiotics would also help in the fight against antibiotic resistant illnesses or ‘superbugs’. They noted that there were exceptions to their argument, most notable was tuberculosis.

The article called for more clinical trails to determine when was the right time for people to stop taking antibiotics and if doctors advising patients to complete the course of antibiotics was the wrong advice to give.