Pharmacists are expected to play a key role in the latest campaign by Public Health England (PHE) to educate the public about the appropriate use of antibiotics.
Pharmacy posters and a campaign email signature — reinforcing the message that people should only take antibiotics when necessary otherwise they are putting themselves and their family at risk — are available as part of the “Keep Antibiotics Working” campaign.
Launching the campaign on 23 October 2017, PHE’s lead pharmacist for its antimicrobial resistance programme, Dian Ashiru-Oredope said: “Pharmacists are on the frontline in the fight against antimicrobial resistance and play a vital role by managing patient expectations around the prescribing of antibiotics. The … campaign supports the profession by educating the public about the dangers of antimicrobial resistance and the risks to their health in taking antibiotics when they are not needed.”
National television, radio and newspaper advertising campaign are taking place and she is urging pharmacists to use campaign materials to support patient conversations in the pharmacy about the appropriate use of antibiotics.
Running alongside the campaign, PHE has updated a suite of guidance on AMR including a secondary care prescriber’s checklist; a toolkit for healthcare professionals; and even quizzes and crosswords on antibiotic awareness.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, (RPS) which has its own antimicrobial resistance campaign welcomed the latest PHE initiative.
A spokesperson said: “This new campaign for the public is much needed in light of the chief medical officer’s recent warning of the ‘antibiotic apocalypse’ that is due if we carry on using antibiotics as we are.
“Pharmacists have a critical part to play in this positive movement helping to preserve antibiotics, and our own campaign is targeting them with professional resources. There’s been lots of initiatives from the NHS for healthcare professionals which are seeing some good results, so it’s absolutely right the public are now being asked to play their part too.”
Meanwhile, the latest report about the current state of antimicrobial resistance — English surveillance programme for antimicrobial utilisation and resistance (ESPAUR) Report 2017 — has been released.
The report, in its fourth year, revealed that in 2016, the commonest cause of blood stream infections was E. coli; of these, 41% were resistant to the commonest antibiotic used to treat infections in hospitals (co-amoxiclav) and almost 20% of these bacteria were resistant to at least one other key antibiotic. Multi-drug resistance (resistance to three antibiotics) however was uncommon at less than 5%.
Antimicrobial resistance was found to be common in the more than one million urinary tract infections caused by bacteria identified in NHS laboratories in 2016. Of the samples analysed, 34% were found to be resistant to the antibiotic trimethoprim, compared with 29.1% in 2015.
The report revealed that between 2012 and 2016, antibiotic prescribing fell by 5%, with declines across the majority of antibiotic groups. But there were “significant” regional variations.
The total amount of antibiotic items prescribed in primary care continued to fall — down 13.4% between 2012 and 2016.
Secondary care, however, has not had a sustained reduction in total antibiotic prescribing, it said.
From 2015 to 2016 hospitals reduced their use of the ultra-broad spectrum antibiotics piperacillin/tazobactam and carbapenems by 4%. This was identified by ESPAUR as the “first step in reducing antibiotic use in hospitals.”