The potential dangers of antibiotics bought from unlicensed websites should be highlighted to the public as part of steps to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance, according to pharmacists and GPs in Wales.
Leadership bodies for the two professions will call on the Welsh Government to support efforts to raise awareness of the health risks of the practice and how it can worsen antibiotic resistance.
The organisations are also seeking a school-based education programme to teach children about infection control and disease prevention, which can help reduce reliance on antimicrobial agents.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) will call for these measures at a meeting with Welsh Assembly members on 18 November 2014, European Antibiotic Awareness Day.
Antibiotic resistance has grown steadily in the UK in recent years, and further spread threatens to deplete stocks of effective agents to treat infections.
The RPS in Wales says an increasing number of people are buying prescription-only antimicrobials from websites not registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council, and from outside the UK while travelling. The Society says this inappropriate use of antibiotics fuels the spread of resistance and also risks serious health problems.
Mair Davies, chair of the Welsh Pharmacy Board at the RPS, warns that antibiotics bought from unregistered websites or while travelling abroad “may be contaminated, counterfeit or out of date, and often there is no guidance on dosage”.
“Our bodies are good at fighting infection,” she says. “We can help ourselves by ensuring we get sufficient rest and drink enough water. Pharmacists are on hand to give advice on a range of common conditions. Some pharmacies run a common ailments scheme, a service that provides free advice and NHS treatment, where appropriate, for a range of conditions.”
Paul Myres, chair of RCGP Wales, says: “Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest health challenges we face today. We all need to play our part to ensure antibiotics are used responsibly.”
Attendees at the meeting will discuss concerns about the future effectiveness of antibiotics and what can be done to tackle the problem in Wales.
The RPS recently hosted an antimicrobial summit at its headquarters in London. The conference heard how commissioning community pharmacies to handle minor infections could help reduce dependence on antibiotics.