UK public would obey major changes to antibiotic advice, research shows

  • Lyons BA, et al.
  • Soc Sci Med
  • 6 May 2020

  • curated by Priscilla Lynch
  • Medical News
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The UK public is likely to accept new guidelines that change long-standing advice to take a full course of antibiotics, new research published in the journal Social Science & Medicine suggests.

Experts have recently argued that guidelines to take the full course of antibiotics are due for revision, instead recommending that patients stop when they feel better. This study sought to understand how revisions to this long-standing advice would impact the beliefs, behaviour, and trust toward such guidelines from medical experts.

The researchers used a national sample of UK participants (n=1263) to test online the effects of a message that reverses the prior full-course guideline (versus a status quo message to take the full course; half:half respondents). They also tested a secondary intervention that emphasises that medical guidance and evidence may change over time.

Early stoppage messages significantly shifted personal beliefs and perceived expert consensus about early stoppage (a shift of 16%, 95% CI 13.8%-17.9%, P

Yet, the new guideline also slightly decreased acceptance of uncertainty about future guidelines (a decrease of 2%, 95% CI 0.2%- 3.1%, P=0.022) and general intention to comply with other guidelines in the future (a decrease of 6%, 95% CI 2.6%-8.4%, P

Prior belief about early stoppage did not moderate receptivity to messages.

They also found receptivity to early stoppage messages was contingent on deference to experts. They found no effect of a secondary intervention that emphasises that medical guidance and evidence may change over time.

So while respondents showed wariness about further future revisions, these data do not show that changing guidelines undermines trust in the experts that produce them, the researchers noted.