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Report says GPs over-prescribing antibiotics

UK doctors are prescribing the latest, more expensive antibiotics, rather than exploring cheaper and better options

UK doctors are prescribing the latest, more expensive antibiotics, rather than exploring cheaper and better options, according to new research.

Pharmacists at John Moore University in Liverpool say that the risk associated with this behaviour is that the drug prescribed may be unnecessary or inappropriate, increasing the potential for microbial resistance and adding costs to the Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Guidelines say antibiotics should only be used as the first-line treatment for very few conditions, but the research found these drugs accounted for 15 per cent of all antibacterials prescribed in the study, and often for conditions not included in the PCT guidelines.

"There are serious risks associated with prescribing based on preference and experience - it can lead to the chosen drug being inappropriate or completely unnecessary," said Rachel Aspinall lead researcher.

"Inappropriate prescribing can also reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics for patients who may need them in the future, and potentially lead to complete antibiotic resistance. So, it's important GPs are given more support in prescribing. Pharmacists are experts in medicines, and therefore ideally placed to provide support of this kind to ensure all patients receive the best possible healthcare," she concluded.

The research
The research investigated drugs prescribed within 13 GP practices in a PCT in the north west of England in December 2006, and compared the findings with data collected in December 2005.

The practices served a population of 87,644 patients and 4,429 prescriptions were issued for an antibacterial drug in December 2006, compared to 4,676 prescriptions in 2005. Of the antibacterial drugs prescribed, 414 were for co-amoxiclav, 142 for clarithromycin and 130 were for any one of the 4-quinolone drugs. The investigation considered the antibacterials co-amoxiclav, clarithromycin and all drugs belonging to the four-quinolone class of antibacterials.

The research was presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference, which is being held in Manchester, UK, this week.

30th September 2008

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