The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued new guidelines to doctors and health professionals to encourage a more limited use of antibiotics to help tackle the rise in resistance to the drug.
Despite existing guidance that prescribing rates of antibiotics should be reduced, nine out of 10 family doctors in Britain say they feel pressured by their patients to prescribe antibiotics, with 97% of patients who ask for antibiotics leaving surgeries with a prescription for the drug.
If successfully implemented, NICE’s new guidance could help reduce antibiotic prescribing by 25%—accounting for around 10 million fewer antibiotic prescriptions a year.
A spokesman for NICE said, “The more antibiotics are used, the less effective they become. This is because overuse gives resistant bacteria a greater chance to survive and spread. The problem of antibiotic resistance is compounded by the fact that the discovery of new antibiotics is at an all-time low.”
The new measures recommend creating multidisciplinary antimicrobial stewardship teams. The teams would be able to review prescribing and resistance data frequently and feed information back to doctors and other prescribers.
“The teams would also be able to work with doctors to understand the reasons for very high, increasing or very low volumes of antimicrobial prescribing, as well as providing feedback and assistance to those who prescribe antimicrobials outside of local guidelines where this is not justified,” said NICE.
Professor Mark Baker, director of the Center for Clinical Practice at NICE, said, “It is clear the reduction in antibiotic prescribing we expected to see when our 2007 guideline on upper respiratory tract infections was published has not happened.”
Referring to pressure put on doctors, Baker said it often is patients who, because they don't understand their condition will clear up by itself, may put pressure on their doctor to prescribe an antibiotic when they are unlikely to benefit from it.
He added that doctors should be encouraged to change their habits. But ultimately, he said, some cases should be dealt with by the regulatory body for all doctors practicing in Britain, the General Medical Council, which has the power, “if necessary,” to withdraw a doctor’s right to practice.
Dr. Diane Ashiru-Oredope, a pharmacist from Public Health England, said, “Antimicrobial stewardship programs, which aim to reduce inappropriate prescribing and optimize antibiotic use are a crucial part of work to combat antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial stewardship, is an important element of the U.K. Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy.”