Tag Archives: antibiotics

‘Almost too late’: fears of global superbug crisis in wake of antibiotic misuse

It is “almost too late” to stop a global superbug crisis caused by the misuse of antibiotics, a leading expert has warned.

Scientists have a “50-50” chance of salvaging existing antibiotics from bacteria which has become resistant to its effects, according to Dr David Brown.

The director at Antibiotic Research UK, whose discoveries helped make more than £20bn ($30bn) in pharmaceutical sales, said efforts to find new antibiotics are “totally failing” despite significant investment and research.

It comes after a gene was discovered which makes infectious bacteria resistant to the last line of antibiotic defence, colistin (polymyxins).

The resistance to the colistin antibiotic is considered to be a “major step” towards completely untreatable infections and has been found in pigs and humans in England and Wales.

Public Health England said the risk posed to humans by the mcr-1 gene was “low” but was being monitored closely.

Performing surgery, treating infections and even travelling abroad safely all rely to some extent on access to effective antibiotics.

It is feared the crisis could further penetrate Europe as displaced migrants enter from a war-torn Middle East, where countries such as Syria have increasing levels of antibiotic resistance.

Dr Brown told said: “It is almost too late. We needed to start research 10 years ago and we still have no global monitoring system in place.

“The issue is people have tried to find new antibiotics but it is totally failing – there has been no new chemical class of drug to treat gram-negative infections for more than 40 years.

“I think we have got a 50-50 chance of salvaging the most important antibiotics but we need to stop agriculture from ruining it again.”

Resistance is thought to have grown due to colistin being heavily used in pockets of the agricultural industries, particularly in China, often to increase the physical size of livestock.

Worldwide, the demand for colistin in agriculture was expected to reach almost 12,000 tonnes per year by the end of this year, rising to 16,500 tonnes by 2021.

In the UK, nearly half of all antibiotics used are in farming, according to reports, although the use of it as a growth agent has been banned in the EU since 2006.

The unnecessary prescription and use of antibiotics as a form of treatment is also believed to be an aggravating factor.

Although the imminent threat of the resistant bacteria spreading throughout the UK remains small, it could worsen in Europe next year, Dr Brown added.

He said: “In 2016, a number of factors are going to come together – including the effects of the migration crisis.

“I think, for the time being, northern Europe will be okay. Southern Europe, places such as Italy and Greece, and the Middle East are more under threat because of weaker health systems and weaker monitoring systems. India, especially, could be in real trouble.

“The migration crisis will probably not be helping anything as a lot of people coming over from Syria could be bringing bugs.

“People are getting a sick a lot more often there because of sanitation. Once one bug has got resistance, it can pass it to another.”

Despite European Union regulations aiming to cut back on the unnecessary use of antibiotics, Dr Brown believes it will take more than just legislation to tackle the superbug crisis.

Market forces will need to be compelled to cut usage, perhaps when prompted by a shift in public opinion, he said.

“Those with a vested interest find ways around legislation. So, in addition to public policy we will need also the power of market forces,” he added.

“When the public start demanding meat that has not seen antibiotics – because they understand that the meat may contain antibiotic resistant bacteria – only then will real progress be made. We need education about the threat.”

Government scientists re-examined 24,000 samples of bacteria from food and humans in the UK following the discovery of mcr-1 in China in November and found the gene in just 15 samples.

The Soil Association said the mcr-1 was found in E. coli from two pig farms, in stored E. coli from a pig and in three E. coli samples from two human patients, which were also found to be resistant to other antibiotics.

It was also found in 10 human salmonella infections and in salmonella from a single imported sample of poultry meat. The earliest British positive sample was a salmonella from 2012.

Source The Guardian

Patients less satisfied by GPs who refuse to prescribe antibiotics

GPs who prescribe fewer antibiotics have less satisfied patients, according to a new study by researchers at King’s College London.

The study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, compared the prescribing rates of more than 95% of all GP surgeries in England to a survey of patient satisfaction.

Those satisfaction scores are used to determine how much GPs get paid.

Patients’ satisfaction rose when they were listened to or carefully examined.

A study last year warned that up to half of all prescriptions of antibiotics could be inappropriate – given to patients suffering coughs, colds, sore throats and the flu – none of which can be treated with antibiotics.

The overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistance, when bacteria and infections can no longer be killed off or treated with strong drugs.

In this study, doctors who prescribed 25% fewer antibiotics saw a modest reduction in patient satisfaction with them or with their surgery.

The General Practice Patient Survey, which invites nearly three million adults registered with GPs in England to comment on the quality of their care every year, is also a factor taken into account in GPs’ performance-related pay.

Dr Mark Ashworth, GP and lead study author, from the King’s College London division of health and social care research, said: “GPs often feel pressured by patients to prescribe antibiotics and find it difficult to refuse a patient who asks for them.

“GPs who are frugal in their antibiotic prescribing may need support to maintain patient satisfaction.”

Although the authors say they can’t show cause and effect in this study, other studies in other countries have come up with similar results.

But they also point to research that indicates it is possible to offset any feelings of dissatisfaction if patients feel they have been listened to or carefully examined.

Dr Tim Ballard, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the findings were concerning.

“It is frustrating that GP practices that are working hard to reduce inappropriate antibiotics prescribing face falling patient satisfaction ratings.

“It truly is a case of being damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

He added: “Public perception needs to change – our patients need to understand that when diseases become resistant to antibiotics, it means that antibiotics will cease to work and as it stands, we don’t have an alternative.

Source BBC News

Hospitals turning to ‘last-resort’ antibiotics as drug-resistant infections continue to rise

More people suffered a “significant antibiotic-resistant infection” – both in hospitals and the community – between 2010 and 2014, a new report from Public Health England (PHE) shows.

Most antibiotics are prescribed in GP surgeries (74 per cent) while hospitals account for 18 per cent of all antibiotic prescribing.

Rates of bloodstream infections caused by E. coli jumped 15.6 per cent and Klebsiella pneumoniae increased by  20.8 per cent from 2010  to 2014.

E. coli can cause severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea that may be bloody, and in serious cases can lead to kidney failure and death. Klebsiella pneumoniae causes urinary-tract infections and pneumonia but can also lead to blood poisoning.

While overall resistance to key antibiotics used to treat infections has remained constant in E. coli, the fact there are more bloodstream infections means more people have suffered a significant antibiotic-resistant infection.

Most antibiotics are prescribed in GP surgeries (74 per cent) while hospitals account for 18 per cent of all antibiotic prescribing. Hospitals use more broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are effective against a wide range of bacteria – and the report showed that the use of these drugs rose significantly between 2010 and 2014.

The use of carbapenems and piperacillin/tazobactam – regarded as “last-resort” antibiotics – increased by 36 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively, over the period, although the rate of increase is slowing.

Overall, prescribing to hospital inpatients increased “significantly” by 11.7 per cent and to hospital outpatients by 8.5 per cent between 2011  and 2014.

Dr Mike Durkin, NHS England’s director of patient safety, said: “As one of the largest healthcare providers in the world, it is vital the NHS is seen to lead that fight against the global problem of antimicrobial resistance so these immensely important medicines can be preserved for now and future generations.”

Source The Telegraph

Rapid diagnostic tools needed to fix antibiotic crisis, says review

New rapid diagnostic tools are needed to stop the unnecessary use of antibiotics and tackle superbugs, a government review has said.

Fundamental change is required to make a dent in the huge number of antibiotic prescriptions given mistakenly for viral infections, according to the report.

Creating more refined tests – which will allow doctors to identify in minutes the strain of bacterial infection present and the antibiotics to which it is resistant or susceptible – will allow more precise prescribing of narrow-spectrum antibiotics, it said.

Jim O’Neill, the economist and former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management who is leading the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance set up by David Cameron in July 2014, said: “For far too long we have not recognised the huge cost to society of increasing resistance when we use antibiotics that we don’t need, such as taking antibiotics for flu, which have no effect except to increase the chances of superbugs developing.

“To avoid the tragedy of 10 million people dying every year by 2050, the world needs rapid diagnostics to improve our use of antibiotics. They are essential to get patients the right treatment, cut down on the huge amount of unnecessary use and make our drugs last longer.”

The review highlighted a study that found that more than two-thirds of courses of antibiotics in the US – equivalent to 27m – were likely to have been inappropriately prescribed for conditions that were not infections at all, or were caused by viruses.

The report, the latest in a series by the review – which will publish final recommendations in spring next year, suggested that rapidly advancing technology in the shape of computer learning and artificial intelligence could be put to good use in changing antibiotic prescribing.

But it cautioned that a step-change in behaviour is needed to alter long-established ways of using antibiotics.

One problem the review identified was that it is more expensive and more time-consuming for a doctor or a patient to use a diagnostic than to use a drug just in case it is needed, even if the wider consequences are negative.

For instance, in the UK, the world’s “last-line” treatment is given on a precautionary basis to almost all patients with gonorrhoea, even though 70% to 80% of the cases would likely respond to older, abandoned first-line treatments.

The committee also pointed out that drug companies have no commercial interest in the advent of rapid diagnostics, which would limit the number of antibiotics prescribed.

To bridge the mismatch between costs and benefits, it proposes a market-based revenue stream for developers of products that would top up payments to developers to make sure the commercial benefits and the needs of society are better aligned.

It also called for more money to be pushed into early-stage research, referencing its previous report, which proposed a global AMR innovation fund of around $2bn over five years to help boost funding for blue-sky research.

The report concluded by saying the long-term economic case for rapid diagnostics should be made, with healthcare systems playing an important role in this.

Dr Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organisation, said: “Antibiotics are rarely prescribed based on a definitive diagnosis. Diagnostic tests can show whether or not an antibiotic is actually needed, and which one. Having rapid, low-cost and readily available diagnostics is an essential part of the solution to this urgent problem.”

Source The Guardian

Hope for faster treatment of urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections can be treated more quickly using a new DNA sequencing device, according to research.

Scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) say the device – the size of a USB stick – can detect bacteria directly from urine samples four times more quickly than traditional methods.

The technology could lead to faster treatment and better use of antibiotics, they say.

The findings were unveiled at a medical conference in San Diego.

Prof David Livermore, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said there was a need to move beyond the current “carpet-bombing” approach to treating urinary tract infections (UTIs).

“The way to do so lies in accelerating laboratory investigation, so that treatment can be refined earlier, benefitting the patient, who gets an effective antibiotic, and society, whose diminishing stock of antibiotics is better managed,” he said.

The device can also detect resistance to antibiotics, said Dr Justin O’Grady, also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

“Swift results like these will make it possible to refine a patient’s treatment much earlier – and that’s good for the patient, who gets the ‘right’ antibiotic, and for society – which can better manage or ‘steward’ its limited supply of antibiotics,” he said.

There were still challenges to overcome as the technique only works on heavily infected urine, he added.

Superbugs are now a major global health threat with multi-drug resistant bacteria causing around 400,000 infections and 25,000 deaths in Europe every year.

Source BBC news

Call to punish GPs over overprescribing antibiotics

“Soft-touch” and “hazardous” doctors should be disciplined for prescribing too many antibiotics, a leading NHS figure says.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s Prof Mark Baker said 10 million prescriptions a year were inappropriate.

He said regulators need to deal with overprescribing doctors who failed to change their ways.

The Royal College of GPs said the call was “counter-productive and unhelpful”.

There is universal consensus that the very basis of modern medicine is under threat due to rising numbers of infections that are resistant to drugs.

The “antibiotic apocalypse” not only means that long-forgotten infections could kill again, but jeopardises procedures including surgery and chemotherapy.

Using antibiotics inappropriately for sore throats and colds increases the risk of resistance. Yet the number of prescriptions continues to rise.

NICE has prepared fresh guidelines on antibiotic prescribing for the NHS in England, which can be adopted by other parts of the UK.

The guidelines acknowledge that there is huge pressure from some patients for the drugs.

Prof Baker even said some people were “addicted” to the idea of getting antibiotics, even for conditions that would clear up on their own.

He added 97% of patients who asked for antibiotics ended up getting them, often by identifying a “soft-touch” doctor.

The guidelines say doctors should tell patients when antibiotics are inappropriate and refuse to write prescriptions.

Prof Mark Baker, director of the organisation’s centre for clinical practice, said: “We are proposing that evidence is collected so the finger can be pointed at people who are a soft touch.”

He said antibiotics could cause more harm than good in some patients, so overprescribing was “really hazardous practice”.

And, he said, doctors should be encouraged to change their habits. But ultimately some cases should be dealt with by the General Medical Council, which has the power to withdraw a doctor’s right to practise, “if necessary”.

NICE admits that if previous guidelines on respiratory tract infections, which include colds, were actually followed then prescriptions would be 22% lower.

The latest rules for doctors should cut the 42 million prescriptions given each year by around a quarter.

Dr Tim Ballard, from the Royal College of GPs, said the focus needed to be on “societal change” – not doctors.

He said: “Any suggestion that hard-pressed GPs – who are already trying to do their jobs in increasingly difficult circumstances – will be reported to the regulator is counter-productive and unhelpful.”

NICE will be publishing guidelines on educating the public next year.

Other recommendations include the use of “delayed prescribing” where a patient can only use a prescription if his condition gets worse and creating “antimicrobial stewards” who identify high levels of prescribing.

Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the General Medical Council, said doctors should reflect on their prescribing habits as part of an annual appraisal.

He said “doctors can, and do, face sanctions for mis-prescribing.” But the message is “more about changing the norms of practice generally than pursuing individual doctors”.

Source BBC News

Overuse of nursing home antibiotics may put all residents at risk

Some nursing home facilities prescribe antibiotics more often than others, which is tied to increased health risks, even for residents who don’t receive the medications, according to a new study.

About two-thirds of nursing home residents receive antibiotic treatment of some kind each year. Prescribing the drugs inappropriately increases the risk of medication reactions, allergies, diarrhea and infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the authors write in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Wherever antibiotic prescriptions have been systematically audited, be it in acute care hospitals, long term care settings or in community clinics, there has been a consistent finding that one-third to one-half of antibiotic treatments are unnecessary or inappropriate,” said lead author Dr. Nick Daneman of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center at the University of Toronto.

“Appropriate antibiotic prescribing may be a particular challenge in the nursing home, though, because histories are difficult to obtain from patients with cognitive impairment, elderly patients often have infection with atypical symptoms such as absence of fever, and there is less access to on-site doctors and laboratory testing,” Daneman told Reuters Health by email.

The researchers used population-level administrative databases in Ontario to link antibiotic prescriptions among all users of Ontario’s universal single-payer health care system with a registry of continuing care residents, a drug benefit program database, health insurance plan database and emergency room visit and hospitalization databases.

Between 2010 and 2011, more than 110,000 people over age 66 lived in an Ontario nursing home. Multiplying the number of residents by the number of days the study covered, the researchers found that for every 1,000 days each resident spent in a nursing home, they were prescribed antibiotics on 55 of those days, on average.

That number varied by facility from 20 days to almost 193 days per 1,000 resident-days.

The researchers divided the 607 total nursing home facilities into three groups: low use, medium use and high use, based on how often they prescribed antibiotics.

High-use facilities tended to be smaller, more rural and more often had for-profit ownership.

Among residents who received the antibiotics, 14 percent of those in high-use facilities experienced an adverse reaction like allergy or diarrhea, compared to 13.5 percent in medium-use facilities and 12.9 percent in low-use facilities.

Those who did not receive the antibiotics were also at a higher risk for antibiotic-resistant infections such as Clostridium difficile, or “C. diff,” in high-use facilities.

Most often, residents were prescribed penicillin, which can treat Listeria or Staph infections, or fluoroquinolones, which are often prescribed to treat hospital-acquired infections that may be resistant to other treatment.

“It is fascinating that this risk extends both to the residents treated with antibiotics, but also to the residents that never directly received an antibiotic during the study,” Daneman said. “This makes sense, though, because many of the harms of antibiotics can be transmitted to neighbouring and future patients.”

Antibiotic stewardship programs – multidisciplinary teams working to optimize antibiotic treatment to maximize the benefits of these medications while limiting their harms – are becoming more common in acute care hospitals, but are still rare in nursing homes, he said.

Older people are particularly high risk because of frailty and less ability to “bounce back” from an adverse event, he added.

Infections can also be harder to diagnose among older adults, as they present with different symptoms than in younger people.

“The easy solution is then to just give a prescription,” said Dr. Lona Mody of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, who coauthored an editorial accompanying the study.

“Second, early evaluation is often performed by front line staff followed by a telephone conversation with the prescriber who is often off-site and unable to personally evaluate the elderly patient before prescribing antibiotics,” Mody told Reuters Health by email.

Urinary tract infections are the most overdiagnosed infection, Mody said.

“Antibiotic stewardship should be a shared concern of not only healthcare workers but also patients and their families,” Daneman said. “Family members and patients should be aware that more antibiotic use is not always better, and should ask their doctor to make sure the treatments are needed, chosen appropriately, and prescribed for the necessary length of time.”

Source Reuters

Repeated antibiotic use linked to diabetes

People who need treating with repeated courses of antibiotics may be at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, researchers have found.

The European Journal of Endocrinology study traced antibiotic prescriptions given out to a million UK patients.

The authors say the findings do not necessarily mean that the drugs trigger diabetes – instead, infections may be a warning sign that diabetes is imminent.

They say more work is now needed to understand the link.

The study looked at how many antibiotic prescriptions had been given to 208,000 diabetic patients – both type 1 and type 2 diabetics – at least one year before they were diagnosed with their condition, compared with 816,000 non-diabetic patients of the same age and sex.

Nearly half of the patients had been prescribed antibiotics at some point over the course of the study period.

And the researchers found the risk of type 2 diabetes went up with the number of antibiotic prescriptions a patient received.

For example:

  •     The risk of type 2 diabetes was 8% higher among patients prescribed two to five courses of penicillin-type antibiotics, and 23% higher among those given more than five courses of these drugs
  •     For another class of antibiotics known as quinolones, type 2 diabetes risk was 15% higher among patients prescribed two to five courses and 37% higher among those given more than five courses

No link was found with antifungal drugs and antiviral drugs. And antibiotic use did not appear to affect risk of type 1 diabetes.

Red flag or trigger?

The researchers, Dr Ben Boursi and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania in the US, believe changes to gut bacteria triggered by taking antibiotics might explain their findings.

Our guts are lined with billions of bacteria and antibiotics can wipe some of these out.

Studies in animals and humans have hinted that changes to this “digestive ecosystem” might contribute to conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Dr Boursi said: “Over-prescription of antibiotics is already a problem around the world as bacteria become increasingly resistant to their effects.

“Our findings are important, not only for understanding how diabetes may develop, but as a warning to reduce unnecessary antibiotic treatments that might do more harm than good.”

But some say repeated infections could be a sign that diabetes is developing. People with type 2 diabetes are prone to skin and urine infections, for example.

Prof Jodi Lindsay from St George’s, University of London, said that since people with type 2 diabetes were at increased risk of developing infections, it was hard to tease the two apart.

“This is a very large and helpful study linking diabetes with antibiotic consumption in the UK public, but at this stage we don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg.

“The idea that antibiotics might contribute to diabetes development might be important and more research needs to be done.”


There are two main types: type 1 and type 2

  •     In type 1, which accounts for about 10% of diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that make insulin
  •     Type 2 diabetes is when the body either cannot make enough insulin or the body’s cells do not react to it
  •     Insulin treatment is always needed for type 1 diabetes, while if you have type 2 you may be able to control your symptoms by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and monitoring your blood sugar.

Now one in seven patients cannot be cured using antibiotics after they were handed out too freely by GPs

One in seven patients can no longer be helped by antibiotics because they are increasingly ineffective after being handed out too freely by GPs, it emerged last night.
Experts warn that the deepening problem could be fatal for a significant number of Britons with common but potentially life-threatening infections.
For some infections, the failure rate was one in three. Overall, it has increased by 12 per cent in 22 years as the number of prescriptions has steadily increased.
For infections such as pneumonia, which commonly affects the elderly, the consequences are fatal.
Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, has already warned the problem is so severe that routine hip operations, caesarean sections and even minor scratches could become deadly.
It has been declared a public health crisis by the World Health Organisation.
The issue has been caused by GPs prescribing antibiotics too readily, sometimes for viruses such as coughs and colds for which they are ineffective. Vets have also been using the medication too widely on animals.
As a result, the bacteria that make humans ill have evolved to become resistant to treatments that used to kill them.
Drug firms have also not produced more effective antibiotics because they are not deemed profitable. 
Researchers from the University of Cardiff looked at the records of almost 11 million patients prescribed antibiotics between 1991 and 2012 for sinusitis, sore throats, skin infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
For 15.4 per cent of patients given an antibiotic in 2012, it did not work. The failure rate was only 13.9 per cent in 1991.
In cases of bronchitis and pneumonia – which can be deadly – this rate can be as high as 35 per cent, or one in three.
Professor Craig Currie, of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said: ‘The growing ineffectiveness of antibiotics is very worrying. We need to minimise unnecessary or inappropriate treatment which could be fuelling microbial resistance to antibiotics, prolonging illness and in some cases killing people.
‘People are given antibiotics inappropriately. We can’t always test whether it’s due to a virus or bug, so antibiotics are a fallback.’
Dame Sally said: ‘The research shows the urgent need to develop new antibiotics, something this Government is looking to address through a review on anti-microbial resistance commissioned by the Prime Minister.’
The study also found that the number of patients given antibiotics had risen from 60 per cent in 1991 to 65 per cent in 2012. 
GPs cannot test whether a sore throat or a rash is caused by bacteria or a virus, which cannot be treated by antibiotics. But when put under pressure by patients they may prescribe them in the hope they will work.
There are thought to be 25,000 deaths a year in Europe from infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said: 
‘Antibiotic resistance is one of the major global health concerns we face.
‘While it is not surprising that the amount of resistant infections has increased, the sheer numbers are of great concern.’
Too few children given 5-in-1 jab
Not enough children are receiving vital vaccinations that protect against serious infections and illnesses.
In the past year in England, 94.3 per cent of children who turned one were given the so-called five-in-one jabs to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).
This falls below the 95 per cent recommended by the World Health Organisation.
The HSCIC’s latest statistics on immunisation also show that just 92.7 per cent of children reaching their second birthday had received the MMR jab, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
Even though this coverage is at its highest since the vaccine was introduced in 1988, England still remains below the WHO minimum of 95 per cent.
HSCIC said coverage in England was below that of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for all routine childhood vaccines at the ages of one, two and five. Across the country, it was lowest in London. 
Source Mail Online

GPs dishing out MORE antibiotics just to treat colds: Number given treatment by doctors rose by 40 per cent between 1999 and 2011

The proportion of patients given antibiotics by GPs for coughs and colds rose by 40 per cent between 1999 and 2011, a study has found.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, which are often the cause of colds and sore throats.

But researchers from Public Health England and University College London discovered that the proportion of patients prescribed antibiotics by their GP for coughs and colds reached a new high of 51 per cent in 2011 – up from 36 per cent in 1999.

And despite dire warnings about the dangers of antibiotic resistance caused by overuse, they suggested that GPs tend to prescribe them when they are put under pressure by worried patients.

According to the study, which was published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, the 10 per cent of GP practices with the highest prescribing rates gave antibiotics to two-thirds of patients with the minor illnesses.

Researchers monitoring prescriptions in 537 GP practices across the UK found some gave antibiotics to four out of five patients with sore throats. One in ten GP practices prescribed antibiotics to at least 97 per cent of patients suffering from ear infections.

And use of the recommended antibiotic trimethoprim in women for cystitis increased from 8 per cent in 1995 to 50 per cent in 2011.
Last year 41.6million prescriptions were dispensed for antibiotics in England, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which do not show how many were handed out for coughs and colds.

The Government’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said last month that pushy patients have been partly to blame for the rise of deadly superbugs which are immune to the drugs.

And the Prime Minister has warned that Britain faces returning to the ‘dark ages of medicine’ where antibiotics no longer work.

Lead researcher Professor Jeremy Hawker, a consultant epidemiologist from Public Health England, said: ‘Although it would be inappropriate to say that all cases of coughs and colds or sore throats did not need antibiotics, our study strongly suggests that there is a need to make improvements in antibiotic prescribing.

Gets rid of them: it was suggested some doctors prescribe useless antibiotics to stop patients returning

Gets rid of them: It was suggested some doctors prescribe useless antibiotics to stop patients returning

‘Previous research has shown that only 10 per cent of sore throats and 20 per cent of acute sinusitis benefit from antibiotic treatment, but the prescription rates we found were much higher than this.’

He added: ‘The worry is that patients who receive antibiotics when they are not needed run the risk of carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their gut.

‘If these bacteria go on to cause an infection, antibiotics will then not work when the patient really does need them.’

Professor Hawker went on to say that ‘defensive medicine’ could be partly responsible for some GPs prescribing them more often for coughs and colds to save them ‘being caught out’ by complications if the condition got worse.

And he suggested that GPs keen to cut down on their workload may give patients a prescription to stop them coming back to the surgery.

Dr Maureen Baker, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: ‘Antibiotics are very effective drugs, as long as they are used appropriately. But we’ve developed a worrying reliance on them.

‘GPs face enormous pressure to prescribe them, even for minor symptoms which will get better on their own or can be treated effectively with other forms of medication.’

She added: ‘Our patients and the public need to be aware of the risks associated with inappropriate use of antibiotics – and know how to use them responsibly.

‘This study reinforces the message that we issued recently for frontline health professionals to resist pressure from patients for unnecessary prescriptions and explore alternatives to them.’

Source Mail Online