GPs in the UK are being offered cash incentives to dissuade rampant prescriptions of antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics is a major contributing factor to the increasing number of dangerous infections developing a drug resistance.
After warnings to reduce overprescribing have been increasingly present over the past couple of years, the UK National Institute for Health and Care, aka NICE, is increasing efforts to stop the issue. Experts have found that 25 per cent of the 40 million prescriptions for antibiotics in 2014 were unnecessary. Despite previous attempts to curb overprescribing, community prescriptions (such as from dentists) have still risen by 32 per cent in just four years.
There is debate about where the issue lies most—whether it is GPs being overzealous with a prescription pad, or pushy patients pressuring doctors for prescriptions. Fortunately, NICE is attempting to curb the issue by tackling both sides of the argument. Patients are to be informed against pushing for medicine with materials that are to be widely published in the coming months. These publications will be written to explain the danger of overuse and how it leads to drugs becoming ineffective.
Doctors are subject to disciplinary action, even being struck off, if found to continue to dramatically over-prescribe unnecessary medication. However, NICE spokespeople are stressing that this is “the last option, absolutely the end of the line”.
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The repercussions of overuse of antibiotics are widespread. Developing resistance prevents the ability to rely on medication commonly used in many routine operations and medical procedures. Additionally, increasing prescriptions has been observed to directly correlate with a rise in potentially life-threatening bloodstream infections—for example, the E. coli bloodstream infection has been growing in resistance.