Almost half of British GPs have admitted prescribing antibiotics even though they know they will not treat the patient's condition, a new survey states.
Ninety percent of doctors who participated in the survey revealed that they felt pressure from patients to hand out the medications.
AdvertisementThe government-funded survey compiled responses from 1,004 GPs across the UK. It found 28% have prescribed antibiotics several times a week even when they are not sure if it is medically necessary, and 45% have done so knowing they will not help.
The new findings come after researchers at Public Health England and University College London revealed earlier this month that antibiotic prescriptions for minor ailments including coughs and colds increased by around 40% from 1999 to 2011.
Seventy percent of GPs took part in the survey said they prescribe because they are unsure whether the patient has a viral or bacterial infection, and 24% say it is because there is a lack of easy-to-use diagnostic tools.
Dr Rosemary Leonard, a British GP and journalist, said she understands the pressures GPs are faced with to prescribe antibiotics when they are unnecessary.
"The more antibiotics taken, the more resistant bacteria come to them. Antibiotic resistance is a major issue and more needs to be done to conserve antibiotics for the future.
Diagnostics play a pivotal role in making this happen. Not only can diagnostics help determine the type of infection someone has, they could gather valuable data and aid the global surveillance efforts," she said.
Meanwhile, Tamar Ghosh who leads the Longitude Prize, said accurate diagnostic tools can help curb the unnecessary use of antibiotics across the globe.
"In the next five years, the Longitude Prize aims to find a cheap and effective diagnostic tool that can be used anywhere in the world. We recognize that stemming the misuse and overuse of antibiotics is just one piece of the jigsaw to slow bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
Nevertheless it's an significant step when we could be waiting many years for other solutions, including novel alternatives to antibiotics coming to the market," said Ms Ghosh.
Just 6% of 1,074 patients surveyed by Populus, a leading research & strategy consultancy in the UK, earlier this month said they would push their GPs to give them antibiotics, despite the high number of doctors claiming they feel under pressure to do so.
According to the sources, the latest research comes ahead of the Ģ10 million Longitude Prize which will open later this year for entries to find an easy and cost-effective test for bacterial infections that medical experts can use to determine if and when to give out antibiotics.