Patients should not be given antibiotics for coughs and colds due to rise in superbugs: experts
Published 16/11/2012 | 11:31
Patients who demand antibiotics for coughs and colds in the UK will instead be given a leaflet by GPs explaining why medication will not help them and causes the spread of superbugs.
In an attempt to control dangerous superbugs, the leaflets will tell patients when they can expect antibiotics and when they are not necessary.
Doctors have complained they feel under pressure to prescribe medicines to patients even when in circumstances where the drugs will not work.
Overuse is the main factor behind increasing resistance to antibiotics with a dramatic rise in superbugs.
Experts are warning that few antibotics are left that will work against these super-strains of bacteria and those that do work are being used in ever increasing quantities, further driving resistance.
The Royal College of General Practitioners has issued the toolkit to GPs and their patients on the appropriate use of antibiotics.
The leaflets remind patients that colds and most coughs, sinusitis, earache and sort throats often get better without antibiotics.
The kit also includes posters and links to web pages, information on self-management and a booklet on 'when to worry' which lists warning signs including a severe headache or vomiting, very cold or discoloured skin or rash, slurred speech or drowsiness.
Dr Cliodna McNulty, head of primary care at the Health Protection Agency, said: “Doctors are faced daily with patients who expect antibiotics for uncomplicated infections that will usually get better on their own.
“This expectation puts a lot of pressure on the doctor to prescribe antibiotics which is often not necessary and cause increased antimicrobial resistance in the long run.
"Bacteria will always adapt to try and survive the effects of the antibiotic and we have seen that the problem of resistance is growing.
“GP patients who have had antibiotics in the last six months are twice as likely to have an infection with resistant bacteria.
"Patients consult GPs because their symptoms are prolonged painful or they are worried they are severe.
"The resources in the Target antibiotics toolkit include an antibiotic information leaflet to share with patients during the consultation.
"This will help patient understanding about the usual length of coughs colds and sore throats and flu and give them advice about self-care and when they need to return to the surgery if they’re symptoms worsen.
“Although there has been a fall in the prescribing of certain groups of antibiotics like cephalosporins and quinolones, overall antibiotic use has increased and antibiotic resistance continues to rise.
"So we should only prescribe antibiotics when they are needed so helping to reduce the risk of resistance emerging and extending the life span of the antibiotics we have.”
Dr Michael Moore, RCGP Clinical Champion for Antimicrobial Stewardship, said: “The toolkit is aimed at working GPs to give them the means to assess their current practice and to focus on ways to reduce antibiotic prescribing in situations where the evidence shows they are of little or no benefit. We will be adding to the toolkit over time as more evidence comes available."
Meanwhile data from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention revealed there has been a rise of between 25 per cent and 60 per cent in two of the most common antibiotic resistant bacteria, Klebsiella pneumoniae and E. coli, in Europe.
Prof David Livermore of the Health Protection Agency said in the UK, in 2000, two per cent of E. coli from bloodstream infections were resistant to cephalosporins (a group of antibiotics) and four per cent to ciprofloxacin (another antibiotic). These rates are now 11 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.
"This matters because infections with E. coli are common – these bacteria causes one third of all bloodstream infections, which number over 30,000 cases per year," he said.
Prof Livermore added: “Over the last ten years or so there has been a major rise in the numbers of resistant bacteria and we cannot let this go unchecked. The fact that we are using our reserve antibiotics to treat some infections is of concern, as resistance is now increasing to them too."
Rebecca Smith Telegraph.co.uk