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20-11-2011 | General practice | Article

GPs urged to limit antibiotics


Health Protection Agency

Too many people are still being prescribed antibiotics for common coughs and colds, research suggests.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) surveyed over 1700 patients in England and found that 97% reported that the last time they asked a GP or nurse for an antibiotic, they were prescribed one.

The findings, coinciding with a European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD), also showed that just over half of people who had recently been to the doctor because of a respiratory infection said they expected to be prescribed an antibiotic - and a quarter believed that antibiotics are effective at treating coughs and colds.

HPA primary care lead, Dr Cliodna McNulty, commented: "Health professionals need to learn to resist demands from patients for treatments they know have little or no effect on coughs and colds."

She added: "Our research also found that one in 10 people admitted to keeping leftover antibiotics. This is not good practice and health professionals need to stress to patients that self treatment with leftover antibiotics is not only unsafe but can lead to the emergence of resistance."

The EAAD website carries a toolkit of briefing materials for primary prescribers (click here), while the Department of Health has also released guidance for doctors on use of antimicrobials (click here).

The government's Chief Medical Officer Professor Sally Davies said: "Many antibiotics are currently prescribed and used when they don't need to be - meaning antibiotics lose their effectiveness at a rapidly increasing rate.

"This guidance will help ensure better use of antibiotics in hospitals and treatment tailored for individual patient needs."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price