Pharmacists warn Antibiotic Overuse is a Major Threat to Irish Healthcare

World Antibiotics Awareness Week runs 18-24 November 

15 November 2019: Public health in Ireland and internationally is being increasingly threatened by the overuse of antibiotics, according to pharmacists. The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), marking the start of World Antibiotics Awareness Week, has urged all stakeholders to be proactive in fighting antibiotic resistance.

Kathy Maher, community pharmacist and former IPU President, said, “The levels of antibiotic-resistant infections have been increasing in Ireland for many years. It is clear that they are now a real and present threat to public health. One of the most serious infections, CPE[1], has increased in prevalence by 1,300% in just five years (to 548 in 2018). The rise in these dangerous resistant infections is primarily the result of misuse and overuse of antibiotics.

“We are now reaching a tipping point and, if dramatic action is not taken, we effectively risk returning to the ‘pre-antibiotic era’. 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.”

“It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to proactively tackle the threat we are now facing.  The most fundamental advice is that antibiotics should only ever be taken when a bacterial infection has been diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional and antibiotics have been prescribed as the necessary and appropriate treatment.”

Ms Maher reminded patients that for many common conditions, such as the flu, colds, sore throats, and diarrhoea, antibiotics have no impact. “For these conditions, you can consult with your pharmacist for remedies that will alleviate your symptoms. However, not only will antibiotics not help, if taken unnecessarily they could increase your likelihood of developing an antibiotic-resistant infection in the future.”

Key advice provided by the Irish Pharmacy Union to combat the risks are:

    1. Don’t take antibiotics for colds and 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; and
    4. Don’t expect to be prescribed antibiotics for viral conditions.
    5. Avail of vaccines for conditions such as the Flu, pneumococcal disease and shingles at your local pharmacy.


[1] Carbapenemase Producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) are a type of extremely antibiotic resistant bacteria.