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The number of people given antibiotics for common coughs and colds is set to be slashed in a bid to control the development of “superbugs”.
Figures show that a quarter of people in England and Wales will visit their GP every year because of symptoms of a respiratory tract infection. This account for 60% of all antibiotic prescribing in general practice – a figure health authorities are trying to drive down.
Superbugs have been linked to the over-prescribing of antibiotics, due to the resistance they develop to most forms of the drug.
Evidence also shows that antibiotics have limited effectiveness in treating most tract infections and complications are rare if antibiotics are withheld.
The guideline published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said doctors should hold back from prescribing antibiotics straight off for respiratory infections in children and adults.
It gives doctors guidance on when to prescribe the drugs, including issuing a prescription for use at a later date should symptoms worsen.
Earlier this year, it was reported that 38 million prescriptions for antibiotics were written by GPs in 2007 at a cost to the NHS of GBP 175 million.
The guideline said doctors should tell patients suffering ear infections, sore throats, sinus trouble and coughs and colds that they do not need antibiotics or offer them a delayed prescription.
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