Antibiotics use guidance launched

Published: Wednesday 18th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Doctors should step in if they believe colleagues are prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily to help tackle the problem of rising drug-resistant infections, according to new draft guidelines.

GPs should also take more time to explain to their patients the reasons why antibiotics might not be the best option for them, the proposed measures from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) say.

The draft guidance aims to ensure that antimicrobial medicines such as antibiotics continue to be effective in treating infections as the more they are used, the more resistant they become.

In December, a report said that unless action is taken, resistant bugs could be claiming at least an extra 10 million lives a year by 2050 – more than the number of people who currently die from cancer.

Prescriptions for antibiotics have been increasing steadily over several years and doctors have been criticised for prescribing them too readily. In 2013/14, 41.6 million prescriptions were issued at a cost of £192 million to the NHS.

“The more we use antibiotics, the less effective they become as diseases evolve and become resistant to existing antimicrobial medicines,” Alastair Hay, professor of primary care and chairman of the committee which developed the guidelines, said.

“Resistance to all antimicrobials is increasing and, combined with a lack of new antimicrobial medicines, there is a heightened risk in the future that we may not be able to treat infections effectively.”

Antimicrobial medicines have been the mainstay of treating infections for more than 60 years, but very few new antibiotics have been developed over the past 30, meaning existing antibiotics are being used to treat an ever greater variety of infections and infectious diseases.

Nice said the draft guidelines were “intended to help health and social care commissioners, providers and prescribers promote and monitor the sensible use of antimicrobials to preserve their future effectiveness”.

The proposed measures also recommend setting up “multidisciplinary antimicrobial stewardship teams” to review prescribing and resistance data.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at Nice, said: “This draft guidance recognises that we need to encourage an open and transparent culture that allows health professionals to question antimicrobial prescribing practices of colleagues when these are not in line with local and national guidelines and no reason is documented.

“But it’s not just prescribers who should be questioned about their attitudes and beliefs about antibiotics. It’s often patients themselves who, because they don’t understand that their condition will clear up by itself, or that perhaps antibiotics aren’t effective in treating it, may put pressure on their doctor to prescribe an antibiotic.”

He cited previous studies that found that nine out of 10 GPs feel pressured to prescribe antibiotics, while 97% of patients who ask for antibiotics are given them.

Published: Wednesday 18th February 2015 by The News Editor

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