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Pharmacists shouldnt prescribe antibiotics for middle ear infections

Monday 25th September 2017
NICE has warned pharmacists not to prescribe antibiotics to patients with middle ear infections due to growing drug resistance. Image: djedzura via iStock
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UK pharmacists are being advised against prescribing antibiotics to patients with middle ear infections, amid the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new draft guidance on the subject, which explains that the vast majority of middle ear infections clear up on their own within 24 hours, meaning there is no need for antibiotics to be taken.

In fact, estimates show that one in four children suffer from a middle ear infection before the age of ten, with 60 per cent demonstrating signs of improvement within just 24 hours.

However, if patients do take antibiotics for this ailment needlessly, their immune systems could begin building up resistance to these drugs. As a result, next time they fall ill with a more serious infection and have a greater need for antibiotics, their bodies may not respond as well to the medication, making the illness harder to fight.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) called this the "greatest threat to health" in the modern age, as the rate of new antibiotics being discovered is not keeping up with the rate at which resistance is developing.

GPs and pharmacists alike have a key responsibility to ensure people are not being prescribed antibiotics for minor infections unnecessarily to help prevent resistance from becoming an even bigger problem.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, commented: "We are all too well aware of the dangers we are facing with antibiotic resistance, so it is vital these medicines are only used when they are effective.

"The evidence shows antibiotics are not needed by most children and young people with middle ear infections. We must make sure the people who need them are given them, but routine prescribing in all cases isn't appropriate."

Written by James Puckle

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