Up to 10m prescriptions for antibiotics are being dished out unnecessarily every year in the UK with many patients seeking out doctors who are a “soft touch” to get hold of them, health officials have said.
Professor Mark Baker warned that the growing “crisis” of anti-microbial resistance could mean the whole basis of medicine could have to be rethought, with infections having to be treated surgically if drugs no longer work.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published guidance for doctors, nurses and pharmacists to help tackle the problem, while it plans on issuing advice for patients next year.
Baker, director of the institute’s Centre for Clinical Practice, said more than 40m prescriptions are written out for antibiotics every year, but a quarter are likely to be inappropriate or unnecessary.
Research has found that nine out of 10 GPs say they feel pressurised to prescribe antibiotics and nearly all (97%) patients who ask for them get them.
Prof Baker said many patients expect antibiotics for common conditions such as colds, coughs, sore throats and even hayfever. Nationally 41.6m antibiotic prescriptions were issued in 2013/ 14 at a cost of €270m.
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