NHS Borders issues warning against over-use of antibiotics

TOMORROW, Friday, November 18, is Antibiotics Awareness Day and with figures published by the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group showing the number of antibiotics used in primary care in the region has gone up slightly over the past year, NHS Borders are on a mission to reduce numbers as it is known that over-use has contributed to the development of superbugs like MRSA.

A culture has developed in the UK where people expect to be given antibiotics and can put pressure on doctors to prescribe them and 2010/11 statisitics show that 1.9 antibacterials per 1000 patients a day were prescribed in NHS Borders primary care facilities.

But Ed James, Consultant Microbiologist at NHS Borders, said that in many cases they make no difference to how long a person will take to recover from an illness, particularly common ailments like a cold or sore throat, and also pose a risk of a person developing a more serious condition.

He commented: “Over-using antibiotics is one of the biggest risk factors for Clostridium Difficile - bacteria that don’t cause problems for healthy people but can multiply and produce toxins when antibitoics used to treat illnesses interfere with the balance of ‘good bacteria’ in the gut.

“This can cause diarrhoea and fever so by over-using antibiotics people can experience other un-wanted side effects without getting the benefits.

“When it comes to simple respiratory conditions like a sore throat or ear infection, the benefits of taking antibiotics are less than originally thought but doctors have become accustomed to issuing them to patients when really pain relief like paracetomol and ibuprofen, as well as plenty of fluids can be just as effective.

Chris Faldon, NHS Borders’ Health Protection Nurse Specialist, added: “This is why community pharmacies are often such a good source of information.

“As we move further into the winter season we are anticipating that more and more people will be reporting things like the common cold and sore throats but they need to realise that for things like a cough caused by a virus, antibiotics aren’t going to make a scrap of difference and it’s better all round to use simple measures available from their local pharmacy, and let things take their course.”

In 2010-11 there were 28,000 (0.5%) more prescriptions for systemic antibacterials in primary care in Scotland than in 2009-10.

Fortunately, the SAPG figures show that the number of antibacterials prescribed associated with C.Diff has declined in the region over the past five years and in line with national guidance, the use of recommended antibacterials has increased year on year, accounting for over 75 per cent of all antibiotics prescribed.

Chris said “prevention was always better than cure” and with this in mind, urged anyone eligible to for the seasonal flu vaccine to make an appointment with their GP to have it.

“If a doctor feels antibitoics are necessary patients should follow their directions and if they say to take them three times a day don’t take it twice one day and four the next. And never use left over antibiotics.”