PATIENTS are being put at risk by faulty antibiotic test kits, a leading medical journal has claimed.
The kits made by British company Oxoid were not accurate, causing doctors potentially to prescribe the wrong drugs, it is alleged.
Antibiotic test kits are used by doctors to determine which drug would be most effective at tackling a patient's infection.
They are widely used across the UK where they are used on tens of thousands of patients each year. They are also used in Ireland, however the extent of their use here is not known.
The Health Services Executive (HSE) was unable to say last night whether they are used in public hospitals.
The website of the Irish Medicines Board carried a field safety notice issued by Oxoid last October in relation to a particular batch of the test discs – which it found may give a false indication of sensitivity to a particular antibiotic, Nitrofurantoin.
And an investigation into Oxoid has been conducted by the 'British Medical Journal' (BMJ).
The company used "flawed" data and "misled" the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, according to the BMJ.
It was claimed that, in some cases, Oxoid discs had too little antibiotic or none at all, creating the risk the infection would appear to be resistant.
This could cause the patient to be moved to a more powerful antibiotic.
"More seriously, too much antibiotic on the discs risks giving a false impression of susceptibility. This may lead to a patient being given an antibiotic that doesn't work," the BMJ said.
But Oxoid said the BMJ allegations were "unfounded".
A spokesperson said: "Oxoid products meet all current legal and regulatory requirements. We have every confidence the testing method used to assure the accuracy of the antimicrobial susceptibility test discs is appropriate.
"We continually invest in our manufacturing processes to ensure that our products are safe and effective."