PM's plan on antibiotics not urgent enough, report says
- 7 July 2014
- From the section Health
The prime minister's plan to tackle antibiotic resistance may be too slow, a parliamentary report says.
The science and technology committee says doctors and vets continue to prescribe antibiotics inappropriately.
The MPs' report acknowledged the government's recently-announced review but warned more immediate action was needed and said ministers should not wait for its outcome.
Experts caution the right solution is more important than a quick one.
During the nine-month analysis, the MPs on the select committee looked at more than 70 submissions of written evidence.
They heard concerns that doctors were offering antibiotics to simply placate patients with distressing symptoms.
And examining farming practices, the authors said they "suspect antibiotics may be routinely used on healthy animals".
Prof Nigel Brown, president of the Society for General Microbiology, told the BBC: "There can be an expectation from patients that some sort of prescription will be handed out - this needs to tackled.
"And we also need to consider whether we should be using the same drugs in veterinary medicine as we do in human health.
"If resistance develops in agriculture we don't want the same thing to happen to human pathogens."
Prime Minister David Cameron recently commissioned a review that will investigate why there have been so few effective antimicrobial drugs in recent years.
Since 2000 there have been just five newly developed classes of antimicrobial drugs. And most of these have been ineffective against gram-negative bacteria - a group of bugs that is becoming increasingly resistant to medication and extremely difficult to treat.
The panel of experts from finance, science, global health and industry is expected to report next spring.
But the select committee has called for a more urgent response, saying: "Announcing reviews [is] not the same as dealing with the problem."
The report continues: "It is clear to us that there is no room for procrastination. We urge the government to take immediate and decisive action."
But Prof Brown cautioned: "This is a pressing need but it is most important to get the right solution, not just a quick one."
The wide-ranging inquiry recommends a number of strategies to improve the current use of antibiotics, from better education for medical students to the development of cheaper, more rapid, tests to accurately identify bacteria.
And the MPs say the government's review must not delay discussions with the pharmaceutical industry about alternative pricing arrangements for drugs.
The committee calls on the government to monitor how well patients deal with their prescriptions, focusing in particular on whether people complete a full course of pills.
A government spokesperson said: "This is an incredibly important issue which is why last week the Prime Minister announced an urgent review to stimulate the development of new antibiotics and why we are supporting GPs to prescribe more effectively.
"Conserving antibiotics is everybody's responsibility so they can be used properly when they are really needed. We will respond to the report in due course."