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Antibiotic prescription rates 60% more than UK

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ANTIBIOTIC prescription rates are 60% higher in Jersey than the UK, figures show, as Islanders with colds this winter are urged not to seek the medication from their GP.

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The use of antibiotics in Jersey is falling, with prescriptions down 10% in the past five years to 0.82 per person per year.However, the fall in the UK has been much greater – 60% – to an average of 0.52 prescriptions per person per year.

Dr Philip Terry, chairman of Jersey Doctors on Call, said the cost of GP fees was one contributing factor to higher prescription rates, as patients want to ‘get something for their £40’. And he said Jersey’s history as a location for cheap cigarettes in the 1960s and 70s was now ‘coming home to roost’, as more people were presenting with lung conditions that needed antibiotic treatment.

Figures also show Jersey’s use of ‘broad spectrum antibiotics’ – that battle a wide range of bacteria – is also almost double that of England, accounting for 17% of antibiotic prescriptions dispensed locally as opposed to 9% in England.

Now, during the World Health Organisation’s Antibiotic Awareness Week, Islanders are being urged not to ask for antibiotics if they are suffering from a cough or cold but instead listen to advice from their pharmacist or GP.

Dr Terry said in the UK the fact that the charging scheme for primary care worked in the opposite way – GP consultations are free but prescriptions cost £9 – may act as a reverse driving factor and be contributing to the lower prescription rate in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

He added: ‘On the reverse side it’s not always gloom and doom when antibiotics are prescribed as sometimes if they are issued early in a serious illness – before it is clearly obvious – it may prevent that potentially harmful infection getting to the point of needing hospital care.

‘I do think, in the long term, there needs to be more financial help from the government for people in the income bracket of £15,000 to £30,000 a year to see a GP. In the bigger picture if you don’t support these people early on to a see a GP it is more costly down the line anyway, they need hospital treatment and you need a bigger hospital. In my opinion some form of health tax should be looked at.’

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, according to the WHO. Resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics is accelerating the process and serious infections – such as pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis – are becoming harder to treat as a result and leading to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased deaths.

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Adam Leversuch, an antimicrobial pharmacist, said: ‘The arrival of winter brings with it runny noses, sore throats and coughs. In most cases these illnesses are caused by viruses and will clear up within a few days without the need for antibiotics. We would urge people to consult their pharmacist for advice on over-the-counter medications which may help to alleviate their symptoms.

‘Antibiotics play a key part in modern medicine, helping to treat serious illnesses caused by bacteria. However, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics both in human and animal health has resulted in bacteria becoming resistant to some of the antibiotics used to treat them.’

Dr Ivan Muscat, microbiology consultant for the Health Department, said the use of ‘broad spectrum antibiotics’ is more likely to drive resistance, and in some cases can lead to patients developing ‘clostridium difficile infection’ which can cause diarrhoea and lead to serious bowel problems.

He added: ‘We are working hard with our hospital and GP colleagues to limit their use to more serious infections.’

Paul McManus, prescribing advisor for Health, added: ‘Without effective antibiotics many routine treatments or operations like chemotherapy, surgery or caesarean sections will also become increasingly dangerous or impossible.’

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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