Pill users threatened by antibiotics in A&E

June 25, 1999

Women on the pill are being endangered by accident and emergency doctors who do not alert them of the danger of using antibiotics alongside oral contraceptives.

A study in Buckinghamshire and south-west England shows that only a minority of doctors give the right advice about antibiotics to women on the pill. Seven out of 12 doctors in an accident and emergency department in south-west England gave the wrong advice or none at all. The worst advice came from older male doctors. Trainees and women were more likely to give correct advice. Just nine of 21 women aged 15-50 to whom broad-spectrum antibiotics were prescribed were asked their drug history.

Records from Buckinghamshire show that there was written evidence of just three women in 100 being asked their contraceptive history when being prescribed antibiotics.

According to Michelle Mullan of Bristol Royal Infirmary and Alison Gammon of Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire, writing in the Journal of Accident and Emergency Medicine, the official estimate of 136 pregnancies being caused by antibiotic use while on the pill may well be low. On completing a course of antibiotics, seven days of "extra contraceptive precautions" are called for, they say.

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