Antibiotic overuse is now one of the greatest threats to patient safety in Ireland

  • Pharmacists advise patients suffering with common ailments like colds, flu, coughs and sore throat not to take antibiotics.

12 November 2017: People suffering from coughs, colds, sore throat, flu, vomiting and diarrhoea should not take antibiotics. Instead, everyone should ensure they get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, particularly if they are in an at-risk groups and have not already had it.

This strong advice has been issued today at the start of European Antibiotics Awareness Week by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) the representative body for community pharmacists, which warns that overuse of antibiotics is the single biggest factor leading to antibiotic resistance in Ireland and indeed around the world. Underlining the scale of the problem, the President of the IPU, Mr Daragh Connolly, said that in Europe every year an estimated 25,000 people die earlier than they need to from infection with bugs that are resistant to antibiotics.

Citing this data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the Dungarvan-based pharmacist said, “Simply put, we are taking more antibiotics than ever before at a time when antibiotic resistance is increasing. Antibiotic overuse is now one of the most serious risks to patient safety in Ireland, especially since not enough new antibiotics capable of dealing with common pathogens are being developed.

“If we allow antibiotic resistance to grow, the antibiotics used to treat infections today will become ineffective or will stop working altogether in the future. 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.”

Mr Connolly continued, “It has been medically proven that antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections and are of no benefit in treating common colds, coughs, sore throats or sinus infections, which are caused by viruses.

“It is important to remember, however, to take flu seriously: it is 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.”

The IPU President said that European Antibiotic Awareness Week offers a valuable focus of us all on this critical healthcare issue and he outlined advice that pharmacists all over the country will be emphasising with patients this week, and on an ongoing basis.

  1. Don’t take antibiotics for colds, flu, sore throat, coughs, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  2. If you do need to take an antibiotic, take it exactly as prescribed and finish the full course even if you are feeling better. 
  3. Do not save antibiotics for later use or share them with others.
  4. Don’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics for viral conditions.


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