Antibiotic overuse becoming major threat to public health according to pharmacists
Irish Pharmacy Union urges patients to help ‘keep antibiotics working’
15 November, 2018 Overuse of antibiotics in Ireland, and around the world, represents one of the most significant threats to long term public health. This warning was issued in advance of European Antibiotics Awareness Day, this coming Sunday, by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) which has called on patients to help fight the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
According to the IPU, health services are experiencing an increase in the levels of antibiotic resistant infections, and this is largely being attributed to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Increased levels of resistance, coupled with the lack of new antibiotics coming on stream, means there is a risk that we could return to the ‘pre-antibiotic era’ if this overuse is not addressed. This will not only cripple our ability to fight routine infections, but will also undermine the treatment of more complicated infections, especially in patients with chronic diseases and could make many surgeries impossible.
President of the IPU, Daragh Connolly, said, “As the theme of this year’s Antibiotic Awareness Week is ‘keep antibiotics working,’ it is essential that everyone takes responsibility for ensuring that antibiotics are only used when absolutely necessary. The key message is that antibiotics should only ever be taken when a patient actually requires them to treat a specific bacterial infection. For anyone suffering from coughs, colds, sore throat, sinusitis, flu, vomiting and diarrhoea, antibiotics will not work and should not be taken.
“It is concerning that, at a time when we should be reducing our use of antibiotics, in the first half of this year the rate of antibiotic consumption in Ireland has actually increased, with Irish people taking 7% more antibiotics than they were 15 years ago.1 We are taking too many antibiotics and this is causing the very concerning rise in antibiotic resistance. If this problem isn’t tackled, the antibiotics used to treat infections today will become ineffective or may stop working altogether in the future.”
Mr Connolly reminded patients that the flu is not a bacterial infection, meaning antibiotics will have no impact, however, proactive prevention is possible. “The flu is a viral infection that results in an extremely contagious respiratory illness and can lead to serious illness, even death, particularly for elderly patients and those suffering from chronic illnesses or a weakened immune system. The flu vaccination, which is available in your local pharmacy, is the best way to reduce your chances of getting seasonal flu and spreading it to others”.
In conclusion, Mr Connolly said that European Antibiotic Awareness Day offers a valuable focus for us all on this critical healthcare issue, and he outlined a series of advices that pharmacists all over the country will be continuing to emphasise to patients this week:
- Don’t take antibiotics for colds and flu; sore throat, coughs, vomiting and diarrhoea;
- If you do need to take an antibiotic, take it exactly as prescribed and finish the full course, even if you are feeling better;
- Do not save antibiotics for later use or share them with others; and
- Don’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics for viral conditions.
Sinead Fennell, Press and Communications Manager, Irish Pharmacy Union Ph Tel: +353 (87) 775 1510
Note for Editor:
European Antibiotics Awareness Day (EAAD) is an annual event which takes on 18 November. It was set up in 2008 by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. It is linked to the World Health Organisation’s antibiotics awareness week, which runs each year from the 13 – 19 November.