UK Drug Watchdog Gets Tough on Antibiotics and "Soft Touch" Doctors

August 18, 2015

August 18, 2015.

The UK's drug watchdog NICE has warned that "soft touch" doctors who hand out too many prescriptions for antibiotic drugs will face disciplinary action.

Currently, UK General Practitioners (GPs) write 10 million antibiotic prescriptions per year for ailments and infections that are routine or minor; as such, the doctors are helping to fuel the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance. Although doctors can feel pressured into prescribing antibiotics by determined patients, NICE warns that failure to reduce antibiotic presribing will lead to action in the form of compulsory retraining or, in more serious cases, the doctor being struck off the UK medical register.

Two years ago NICE issued guidance to reduce the prescribing of antibiotics for respiratory tract infections, with the objective of bringing down the number of prescriptions by 22 per cent. However, since then antibiotic prescriptions for these infections have risen by three million each year.

Responding to NICE's announcement, Dr Tim Ballard, Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said that what is needed instead is "a societal change in attitudes towards the use of antibiotics". He added that reporting "hard-pressed GPs, who are already trying to do their jobs in increasingly difficult circumstances" would be "counter-productive and unhelpful".

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