England's Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has expressed concern over unnecessary prescription of antibiotics to treat minor ailments such as coughs, colds and sore throats, in a third of all cases. He insists that the proper use of antibiotics was vital in the battle against superbugs such as MRSA. However, he adds, the liberal use of medicines has led to bugs becoming resistant to treatment.
Donaldson's statement comes as the Government launches a 270-million-pound campaign on the unnecessary use of drugs such as penicillin.
He has revealed that many studies show that the level of inappropriate prescriptions of antibiotics is between 25 to 35 per cent.
"If you had that level of error in dealing with people's cheques, their back accounts and their statements, it would be an unacceptably high level and yet in health care we tolerate this sort of error rate," the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
Donaldson stresses the importance of reinforcing the message that most common infections are viruses, and thus, do not respond to antibiotics. He points out that most colds, coughs and flu get better without the need of medicines.
"If we continue to give antibiotics when they are unnecessary we will promote much more antibiotic resistance and that is bad for all patients. It is a vicious cycle of having antibiotics for the wrong reasons thinking it is going to be a shield to cover all possible eventualities whereas in fact it is the opposite, it is promoting the sort of organisms including pneumonia that could be lethal in the future," he said.
A series of posters, adverts and leaflets are being distributed to warn doctors not to prescribe antibiotics for coughs and colds, and to tell patients that they will get better without such medication