When it comes to antibiotics, pharmacy teams need to challenge inappropriate prescribing and educate patients, says Baguiasri Mandane, resident pharmacist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

With consumption of antibiotics up 6.5 per cent over the past four years, Public Health England aims to see a reduction in cases of antibiotic resistant bacteria over the coming years. Pharmacists can help by:

• Querying the duration of antibiotics if it exceeds that in local or national guidelines
• Questioning any potential under-dosing, particularly in children
• Educating patients on use
• Getting involved in the making of local and national guidelines and ensuring that broad-spectrum antibiotics are not used inappropriately
• Delivering flu vaccinations to appropriate target populations to prevent ill health and reduce unnecessary hospital admissions.

Prescribing pressure

One-third of the public still believe that antibiotics will treat coughs and colds, and one in five people expect their GPs to prescribe antibiotics for them.

Statistics reveal the highest prescribing of antimicrobials is in Durham, Darlington and Tees at 21.1 defined daily dose (DDD) per 1,000 inhabitants. This was over 40 per cent higher than in London, which has the lowest levels of antibiotic prescribing in England (14.3 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants).

As well as inappropriate prescribing, another key issue is how patients use antibiotics. They should be encouraged to take their antibiotics appropriately; for example, not skipping doses; not sharing them with any other family members; and completing the prescribed course (patients often stop taking their antibiotics when they start to feel better).

Big problem looming

Antibiotics are crucial in treating infections in various settings but without the correct antimicrobial stewardship, resistance could develop into a big problem. Failing to address this issue could potentially result in an estimated 10 million deaths every year across the globe by 2050 and £66 trillion in lost productivity to the worldwide economy.

An estimated 25,000 people die annually across Europe because of hospital-related infections caused by resistant bacteria (e.g. E. coli, K. pneumoniae, E. faecium, P. aeruginosa and MRSA), which adds over £1bn to hospital treatment and societal costs.

The last time a new class of antibiotics was introduced was about 30 years ago. Without appropriate action from all healthcare professionals including pharmacists, prescribers might not be able to treat infections appropriately and routine operations could become dangerous and even deadly in just 20 years.

So sign up now to become an antibiotic guardian at: antibioticguardian.com.

• See also – Public Health England (2015). Health matters: antimicrobial resistance

One-third of the public still believe antibiotics will treat coughs and colds

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