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Progress made in cutting antimicrobial resistance

GPs are prescribing fewer antibiotics in drive to cut AMRs

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 19 September 2016

Progress is being made in preventing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the UK, according to two new government reports.

The government has published its official response report to Lord O’Neill’s review Tackling drug-resistant infections globally, which made 10 recommendations on how to best prevent the challenge of antimicrobial resistance.

Lord O’Neill’s review’s recommendations included raising awareness of AMR globally, reducing the use of antibiotics in animals and improving hygiene to help stop the spread of infection.

It also highlighted the consequences of not taking steps to tackle AMR, warning that there could be 10 million deaths a year by 2050 and the potential end of modern medicine as we know it.

In the UK government response, it accepts these recommendations as part of its ongoing five-year AMR strategy and said it was investing in new diagnosis tests and vaccines.

The response report says: “It is critical that patients receive the antibiotics they need. But to protect those same drugs we must ensure they are only used where appropriate.

“We have begun to turn the tide on antibiotic prescribing rates for human health with a 7.9% reduction in primary care prescribing in England over the last year, thanks to the excellent efforts of clinicians across the country. But we must go further, faster. We will reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing by 50%, with the aim of being a world leader in reducing prescribing by 2020.”

The government also published its second annual progress report on the AMR strategy. It says: “We have seen encouraging progress: achieving an almost 8% reduction in antibiotics prescribed in primary care across England between April and December 2015.

“In addition, we have trialled an approach whereby the CMO [chief medical officer] wrote to high prescribing GP practices to inform them where they stood in comparison to the prescribing levels of general practices generally. This trial saw prescribing of antibiotics in these practices fall by just over 3%.”

The government said that the UK was already leading on a range of measures aimed at preventing AMR across the globe. These included:

  • investing £265 million to strengthen the surveillance of antimicrobial use and resistance, which was already helping 11 countries worldwide and would be expanding in 2017
  • using a £50 million investment to start a global AMR innovation fund to develop new antimicrobials along with diagnostic tools and vaccines
  • investing in the development of quick diagnosis tests, making sure people were given the right drugs for the right infection at the right time.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Action on antimicrobial infections must be taken internationally. Jim O’Neill’s review has made challenging recommendations for the world and I’m delighted that the UK is helping to lead the fight on this.

“No country can afford to be complacent about the catastrophic risk we are facing. If drugs like antibiotics no longer fight infections, 10 million lives could be lost globally every year by 2050.”

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