Antibiotic consumption in England has fallen by 6% in past five years, report shows

Report from Public Health England finds significant reductions in antibiotic use in primary care.

Hospital pharmacy shelves

Between 2014/2015 and 2017/2018, there were 3.7 million fewer antibiotic prescriptions dispensed from community pharmacies in England, according to the fifth annual report of the English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance (ESPAUR).

The report, which was published on 23 October 2018, reveals that while primary care settings accounted for 81% of all antibiotics prescribed in 2017, the number of antibiotic prescriptions dispensed in primary care declined from 754 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2013 to 654 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2017, equating to a drop of 13% in five years.

In contrast, antibiotic consumption in secondary care in England increased by 8% between 2013 and 2017, with prescribing for hospital outpatients increasing by 21% over the five-year period.

Overall, total antibiotic consumption in England fell by 6% between 2014 and 2017, the opposite of what happened between 2010 and 2013, when consumption increased by 6%. The most commonly used antibiotics in England in 2017 continued to be penicillins (45%), tetracyclines (22%) and macrolides (15%).

To tie in with the publication of the ESPAUR report, Public Health England relaunched its campaign ‘Keep antibiotics working’ to continue to educate the public about the risks of antibiotic resistance, with each community pharmacy in England being sent advice leaflets around the self-management of respiratory tract infections to give to customers who visit the pharmacy with a cough or cold and flu-like symptoms.

“The evidence is clear that without swift action to reduce infections, we are at risk of putting medicine back in the Dark Ages — to an age where common procedures we take for granted could become too dangerous to perform, and treatable conditions become life-threatening,” said Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England.

“The UK has made great efforts in recent years to reduce prescribing rates of antibiotics; however, there continues to be a real need to preserve the drugs we have so that they remain effective for those who really need them and prevent infections emerging in the first place.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, November 2018, Vol 301, No 7919;301(7919):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205641

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