Are you prescribing too many antibiotics?

Agar plate with antibiotic resistant bacteria

Agar plate with antibiotic resistant bacteria

How can you stop GPs or other healthcare prescribers from handing out too many antibiotics? Is it ethical or even possible to monitor every prescription  they write? Is it the GP at fault or the patient/customer? Hopefully fewer antibiotic prescriptions will be delivered over the next few years, and although that won’t stop the damage already done, any resistant bacteria will still be out there, we will at least not be developing new resistance to new antibiotics. But what would you do as an alternative when faced with a septic ingrowing toenail?

There are several points at which the sale of the antibiotic can be curbed, the patient, the clinician and the pharmacist. I have just returned from Australia, a country with a strong culture of public messaging and control, as discussed on the Today programme this morning. It’s also a country with one of the highest rates of antibiotic use in the world. (I was surprised!). They have embarked on a strategy to cut this down which would explain the street and newspaper messages advising the public not to ask for antibiotics for a sore throat or cold.

It would be interesting to compare the antibiotic use in Australia with our own here in the UK. Add in China and India and a few other growing economies. Well someone has, this is a report on global use from Princeton. It is a detailed study, it’s really interesting, and it doesn’t give the UK any cause for complacency. But yes Australia looks like it still has a higher prescription rate.

Globally we need to take control of antibiotic use, bacteria don’t recognise borders. You can buy antibiotics over the counter in many countries, and you can buy antibiotics over the internet. We need to get control of these routes of consumption as well.

Interesting minor fact: in Malaysia I went to buy Ibuprofen, the pharmacist could only sell me a 4 day supply and I had to sign for them; bought them over the counter from a supermarket in Australia. It was annoying not to be able to buy them casually as I needed them, but it is a means of controlling supply.