UK Government

Department of Health (National): Get well soon without antibiotics!

Press Release   •   Nov 19, 2010 11:37 GMT

Government raises awareness on appropriate antibiotic use

A new drive to raise antibiotics awareness was launched today to remind the public that antibiotics do not work in treating viral infections such as coughs and colds.

The aim of the campaign is to emphasise the importance of taking antibiotics responsibly by putting an end to their unnecessary use and encouraging people to follow their GP's advice by using antibiotics appropriately.

The inappropriate use of antibiotics has become a serious problem in Europe which is why there is now an annual European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD).

The use of antibiotics gives bacteria the chance to develop resistance which threatens to make antibiotic treatments ineffective. This risk is increased by unnecessary antibiotic use and we need to preserve existing treatments for the future.

Chief Medical Officer (Interim) Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

"As the season for coughs and colds approaches, the public are being reminded to 'Get well without antibiotics' because these drugs do not cure most coughs, colds and sore throats.

"The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of the risks in taking antibiotics for the wrong reasons, and to keep antibiotics effective for use in future generations."

Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said:

"Patients need to know that antibiotics are not always the answer and certainly in the case of coughs and colds they are of little use. It can be very difficult for a GP having a consultation with a patient who expects antibiotics. Many patients think that antibiotics reduce the effects of coughs and colds when in fact these infections will often get better anyway without their use. Plenty of rest and lots of fluids will often help patients fight these infections much more effectively."

Philip Howard, Consultant Antimicrobial Pharmacist and Royal Pharmaceutical Society spokesperson added:

"Pharmacists are ideally placed to convey this information, for example, letting people know how to treat symptoms of coughs and colds as well as how long symptoms may last. I see the impact of serious infections in hospital. Patients and health professionals need to work together to make sure the antibiotics we have remain effective in treating life threatening illness."

This initiative is being re-launched on EAAD, today. Posters and leaflets are being distributed throughout the NHS, and non-prescription information pads are being made available for GPs to give to patients to explain why antibiotics are not appropriate for their condition.

Notes to Editors:

1. Patients with colds do not normally need medical advice but should always consult their GP if they are worried for example, if they have shortness of breath or if chest pain develops or if they already have a chest complaint.

2. Antibiotics only work on treating bacterial infections and not viral infections, such as coughs and colds.

3. EAAD is an annual event held on 18 November. The European focus this year is on prudent antibiotic prescribing in hospitals and we have adapted materials for use in England.

4. We are supporting Self Care Week (15-21 November) (www.nhs.uk/selfcare) and working with the Royal Colleges and professional societies to help raise awareness.

5. For copies of the campaign materials please visit the Department of Health website using the following link: [www.dh.gov.uk/antibiotics]

6. For media queries please call the Department of Health press office on: 0207 210 5221

Contacts

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