Patients' stories

Why did he Give me a Prescription That Wouldn’t Help?

Why did he Give me a Prescription That Wouldn’t Help?

I’m a pretty healthy person and don’t get sick very often. But this year, I got two colds/flus within just a few months of each other.

Usually when I get a cold, it starts in my head, then moves into my chest, and then I start coughing. But when I got sick most recently, it wasn’t like that. I had a sore throat, and I don’t get those often – it was like what kids get! I started to run a fever, and even though I was taking ibuprofen, it went up to 101 degrees for two or three days. So, I thought that because I had a sore throat and a fever, maybe I had strep throat and should get tested.

I went through a lot of trouble to find an urgent care clinic that I could go to, and as soon as I got there, they ordered a strep test. The results came back quickly. The doctor told me I didn’t have strep throat, so I was surprised when he gave me a prescription for antibiotics anyway.

Now, it just happens that I work on a project called Choosing Wisely and one of our goals on the project is to prevent unnecessary use of antibiotics in viral infections, like the common cold. I wanted to tread carefully, but I asked him why he was giving me a prescription for antibiotics when they wouldn’t help for a viral infection – and could even cause harmful side effects. He got defensive, and I didn’t want to offend him or make him feel like a jerk, but I knew that if I were anyone else and didn’t know better, I would have been glad to have gotten that prescription and wouldn’t have known to question him. I wouldn’t have known about the possible side effects or the wasted money.

But to allow for a graceful exit, I took the prescription – knowing that I wasn’t going to fill it – and on my way out suggested to him that he check out the Choosing Wisely website. I’m not sure if he ever did, but I know that I started feeling better the very next day, without ever filling the prescription.

Lisa M., Michigan

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