GPs' reasons for "non-pharmacological" prescribing of antibiotics. A phenomenological study

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2005 Jun;23(2):120-5. doi: 10.1080/02813430510018491.


Objective: To study the reasons cited by Icelandic general practitioners for their "non-pharmacological" prescribing of antibiotics.

Design: A qualitative interview study with research dialogues guided by the Vancouver School of doing phenomenology.

Setting: General practice. Participants A total of 16 general practitioners: 11 in the maximum variety sample and 5 in the theoretical sample.

Results: The most important reasons for prescribing antibiotics in situations with low pharmacological indications (non-pharmacological prescribing) were an unstable doctor-patient relationship due to lack of continuity of care, patient pressure in a stress-loaded society, the doctor's personal characteristics, particularly zeal and readiness to serve, and, finally, the insecurity and uncertainty of the doctor who falls back on the prescription as a coping strategy in a difficult situation.

Conclusion: The causes of non-pharmacological prescribing of antibiotics are highly varied, and relational factors in the interplay between the doctor and the patient are often a key factor. Therefore, it is of great importance for the general practitioner to know the patient and to become better equipped to resist patient pressure, in order to avoid the need to use the prescription as a coping strategy. Continuity of medical care and a stable doctor-patient relationship may be seen as the core concepts in this study and the most important task for the GPs is to promote the patients' trust.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Decision Making
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Family Practice*
  • Humans
  • Iceland
  • Personality
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Refusal
  • Workload


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents