Thumbs up for pharmacy sore throat screening

New research published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy has shown that community pharmacy based screening could prevent unnecessary use of antibiotics for sore throats.

The pilot study conducted at a Boots store involved the inital examination of patients presenting with a sore throat followed by a swab test to screen for Group A streptococcal pharyngitis - the most common cause of bacterial throat infections.

Of those who were eligible for the swab test 76 per cent were negative for Strep A and therefore did not require antibiotics, while only 24 per cent tested positive. The service demonstrated that two thirds of patients who would have seen their GP did not need to do so.

When the researchers extrapolated the findings to the 1.2 million annual GP consultations for sore throats, they calculated that an additional 800,000 patients could be seen in pharmacy each year, reducing antibiotic pressure and the emergence of resistance, as well as helping to reduce GP workloads.

Philip Howard, NHS Improvement Antimicrobial Resistance Project Lead said: “The principal benefit of this type of service would be in saving unnecessary antibiotic usage in potentially large numbers of community patients.”

According to Public Health England (PHE), one third of the public still believes that antibiotics will treat coughs and colds and one fifth of the population expects antibiotics when they visit the doctor with these ailments.

PHE predicts that failure to address the problem of antimicrobial resistance could result in ten million deaths by 2050.

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