OBJECTIVE: (1) To determine what advice, if any, would be given by accident and emergency (A&E) doctors to women who were taking the combined oral contraceptive pill (OCP) if they had been issued with broad spectrum antibiotics and (2) after an audit programme had been instigated, whether appropriate advice was given to such women. METHODS: A questionnaire was circulated to 12 doctors working in the Exeter A&E department to assess their level of knowledge in prescribing antibiotics to women taking the OCP. Notes of women aged 15-50 who had been prescribed broad spectrum antibiotics were examined to see if a contraceptive history had been taken. If the patient was found to be taking the combined OCP it was noted whether documented advice had been given about using an additional form of contraception. Six months later after two education sessions had been held, prescriptions and notes were examined. A patient education leaflet was produced to be given to these women, indicating what additional precautions should be taken after having been prescribed antibiotics. SETTING: The A&E department of a busy district general hospital. SUBJECTS: Women aged 15-50 who had been issued with broad spectrum antibiotics. RESULTS: The level of knowledge in regard to contraceptive advice given to women taking the OCP among doctors working in an A&E department was poor. However, after educational sessions and the production of a patient information leaflet, there was an improvement in women receiving correct advice. CONCLUSIONS: The clinical significance of drug interactions between oral contraceptives and antibiotics indicates the importance of asking a full contraceptive drug history of any woman of childbearing age and documenting this in the notes. Regular audit of this topic is needed to keep it at the front of doctors' minds.
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