New Measures Encourages Responsible Use Of Antibiotics

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A new leaflet for patients has been unveiled by the Welsh Assembly Government to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics in Wales.

It comes as a major new report from the National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) shows that some infections are becoming more resistant to treatment – an issue faced by healthcare systems across the world.

The second annual report from the NPHS's Antimicrobial Resistance Programme, covering the period from 2006-7, shows the number of serious and common infections that were resistant to antimicrobial drugs and antibiotics prescribed to Welsh patients.

The key finding is that some of the most common infections are becoming more resistant to antibiotic treatment.

The new leaflet will stress to the general public that antibiotics are either not required or not effective for many ailments, and taking antibiotics when they are not needed may reduce their effectiveness when a patient is most in need of them.

The report and leaflet launch coincides with the first European Antibiotic Awareness Day, which will be celebrated in the 27 EU Member States and will be an annual event to raise awareness on how to use antibiotics in a responsible way that will help keep them effective in the future.

Events elsewhere in the UK to mark the day include a national conference organised by the Department of Health's Advisory Committee for Antibiotic Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infection (ARHAI), to be held at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London.

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The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, said: "Antibiotics are important medicines used to treat infections caused by bacteria and the use of antibiotics has saved countless lives since they were developed. However, taking antibiotics when they are not needed or not taking them correctly will lead to more bacteria becoming resistant to them.

"We therefore need to reduce our reliance on the prescription of antibiotics for common ailments that could be treated in other ways.

"Pharmacists are experts on medicines and can advise patients on the best medicines to treat their symptoms and can help them decide whether a visit to the GP or a prescription is necessary.

"There is already clear and recently produced NICE guidance for GPs and other health professionals on the prescribing of antibiotics, particularly for respiratory infection. It is up to them to use their clinical judgements as to when they feel it is appropriate to give antibiotics to a patient, but a group set up to look at the issue of antibiotic resistance felt patients needed more information so they could understand when antibiotics are effective or not.

"There is a misconception, for example, that if someone has a common cold, then antibiotics will relieve the symptoms. In fact, as all colds and most coughs and sore throats are caused by viruses, antibiotics are not effective. It would be better for the patient to stay warm and have warm drinks and manage the effects with over-the-counter cold medicines.

"The NPHS report reinforces evidence from across the world that the inappropriate use of antibiotics has increased the number of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics."

Dr Robin Howe, Head of the NPHS's Antimicrobial Resistance Programme, said: "The ongoing monitoring of antimicrobial resistance and usage are key to controlling resistance and maintaining the clinical utility of antimicrobials.

"Our programme has been established by the NPHS as a response to the increasing problems of antimicrobial resistance and aims to minimise disease and death due to antimicrobial resistant infection and maintain the effectiveness of antimicrobial agents in the treatment and prevention of microbial infections in man and animals.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and will publish further annual reports in future."

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