Fifth of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary, study finds

GPs are fuelling the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance by wrongly giving antibiotics to one in five patients who has a cough or sore throat, a government-funded study has found.

Family doctors are displaying “substantial inappropriate antibiotic prescribing” when dealing with patients who have an infection, according to research published by Public Health England (PHE), the government’s public health advisers.

Of the 32.5m antibiotics GPs in England prescribe every year “at least” 20% – 6.3m – are unnecessary, a panel of experts has concluded.

They said only 10% of patients with an acute cough should be given antibiotics, but 41% received the drugs, theydiscovered when they examined GP records.

Senior doctors and Jeremy Hunt, the health and social care secretary, seized on the overprescription to urge GPs to do more to thwart the growing ineffectiveness of some antibiotics, which leads to about 25,000 deaths a year in Europe.

The findings of the study – the first to quantify the number of antibiotics issued inappropriately in primary care – has led to renewed pressure on GPs to prescribe fewer. GPs record no clinical reason for issuing the antibiotics in a third of all prescriptions, they discovered.

Most antibiotic prescriptions are issued for respiratory and urinary infections, the experts found, but GPs are giving out far too many for conditions for which they are not justified, they say in a series of five articles in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Article from The Guardian, 27 February 2018