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1 in 5 antibiotic prescriptions 'inappropriate'

28 February 2018 09:10

As many as one in five prescriptions for antibiotics written by GPs may be "inappropriate"

As many as one in five prescriptions for antibiotics written by GPs may be "inappropriate"

As many as one in five prescriptions for antibiotics written by GPs may be "inappropriate", health officials have warned.

Public Health England (PHE) says using antibiotics when they are not needed "threatens their long-term effectiveness" as it published new research which estimates that 20% of all antibiotic prescriptions written in primary care in England are inappropriate.

It said that to align with ambitions to cut levels of inappropriate prescribing in half, prescribing rates should reduce by 10% in the next two years.

Resistance could be bigger threat than cancer

Resistance to antimicrobial drugs could cause a bigger threat to mankind than cancer, health experts have previously warned.

Around 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria.

If no action is taken, it has been estimated that drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.

The new research articles, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, found that antibiotic prescribing rates varied substantially between GP practices, which the authors said means that there is potential to reduce prescribing in at least some practices.

The majority of antibiotic prescriptions in English primary care were for infections of the respiratory and urinary tracts - but in almost a third of all prescriptions no clinical justification was documented, the research says.

Long-term effectiveness threatened

PHE medical director Professor Paul Cosford said: "Using antibiotics when you don't need them threatens their long-term effectiveness and we all have a part to play to ensure they continue to help us, our families and communities in the future.

"This publication highlights the role GPs can play and I urge all practices to look at ways they can reduce their inappropriate prescribing levels to help make sure the antibiotics that save lives today can save lives tomorrow."

According to health secretary Jeremy Hunt: "Drug-resistant infections are one of the biggest threats to modern medicine and inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics is only exacerbating this problem.

"We are leading the world in our response - since 2012, antibiotics prescribing in England is down by 5% and we've invested more than £615 million at home and abroad in research, development and surveillance. But we need to go further and faster otherwise we risk a world where superbugs kill more people a year than cancer and routine operations become too dangerous."

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