Antibiotic prescriptions causing resistance increase


New figures have indicated that cases of resistant bacteria and antibiotic prescriptions have increased dramatically in England, despite warnings.

According to Public Health England (PHE), there has been a 6% increase in prescriptions for the period 2010 to 2013 and they have warned that around 50% of these may have been ‘inappropriate’.

It found a connection between resistant bacteria and high prescription areas.

The discovery of antibiotics was one of the major medical breakthroughs and has saved millions of lives. However, the overuse of these drugs has caused them to become ineffective as bacteria have developed resistance to it.

According to Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, this situation could result in scenarios where routine infections may become deadly once again.

PHE has assimilated data on antibiotic prescriptions in the UK from all sources, such as hospitals, dentists and GP surgeries.

They recorded the number of ‘defined daily doses’ of antibiotics prescribed for the period 2010 to 2013. During that time the number of prescriptions increased by 6% from 25.9 to 27.4 daily doses per 1000 people. They also found a 12% increase in the number of E.coli infections in the blood which have become resistant.

The figures varied greatly across the country.

In Merseyside, doctors are prescribing 30.4 defined daily doses per 1000 patients, compared to 22.8 in the Thames Valley area.

According to Dr Susan Hopkins from PHE they are aware that below 1% of bacteria are resistant to most of the available antibiotics. She said that in countries, such as India, they are reaching a level of 10% to 20% of people who are not able to be treated with antibiotics. She added that this is the situation England will be in if the use of antibiotics does not become selective.

Her argument is that there could be a reduction in antibiotic use if prescriptions were given at an appropriate time, such as when the symptoms worsen. She has also called for hospital doctors to reconsider the option of providing antibiotics to a patient every day.

Antibiotic Action’s Professor Laura Piddock voiced her disappointment at the continuing rise in antibiotic use and resistance, but said she was not surprised. She said that the situation should be made easier for doctors to make wiser decisions regarding antibiotics, however the pressures on doctors in the NHS are so high that it becomes difficult for them to heed every single guideline.

It was found that during the last year of the study, the number of GP prescriptions declined. However, this may be due to prescriptions being moved to other sections of the health service.

Professor John Watson, the deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health, said antimicrobial resistance is one of the largest threats to health security that the world is currently facing and it is everyone’s duty to take action.

Image Credit: Global Panorama


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