Patients suffering from minor illnesses such as coughs, colds and ear infections can no longer hope for reprieve through antibiotics, as these will soon be disallowed in the UK.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the NHS drugs rationing body, has issued the new guidance in which doctors are prohibited from prescribing antibiotics for minor illnesses such as an ear infection, sore throat, tonsillitis, a cold, sinus infection, cough or bronchitis.
Experts have said that in majority of the cases, the drugs might not work against many of the infections and lead to the spread of lethal hospital superbugs like MRSA.
This move comes in line with Health Secretary Alan Johnson's decision to launch a 270 million pounds advertising campaign, which claimed that drugs would be obsolete in case of cough or cold.
According to Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, it was the inapt use of antibiotics that was encouraging superbug infections because it encourages infections to become resistant to the drugs.
The new guidance states that patients should be reassured that antibiotics are not needed immediately because they will "make little difference to symptoms and may have side-effects".
In case, they get worse or the symptoms do not go on their own, they will be told to return to the doctor. Otherwise, doctors could issue a prescription for the patient to utilise later if their symptoms get worse or continue for more than a week.
According to experts, this ''delayed prescribing'' surely kicks and doctors say that few of the prescriptions are cashed in, which suggests that patients certainly follow the instructions.
Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, who have been campaigning on the issue has whole-heartedly welcomed the guidance.
"It costs an absolute fortune. I have always said there is no shortage of money in the NHS - we just need to spend the money on things that are useful. It can be very difficult being a GP having a consultation with a patient who expects antibiotics. It has become ingrained in them but because the infection gets better anyway, people think it was the antibiotics," the Telegraph quoted him, as saying.
In the guidance it is said that doctors should consider giving antibiotics to children under the age of two who have an ear infection in both ears, children who have discharge from the ears and those patients who have tonsillitis apart from other problems.
And patients having symptoms indicating serious illness or complications such as pneumonia, or who are at high risk of complications should be offered antibiotics or further testing.