19/01/2004

Antibiotics don’t work on colds, warns medical chief

A revamped publicity campaign, launched by the health department today, has warned that antibiotics should not be taken for colds, most coughs and sore throats.

The aim of the campaign, which features a cartoon character called 'Andy Biotic', is to try to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics. The campaign will include radio adverts, leaflet inserts in newspapers, advertising in shopping centres and bus stops. Leaflets will also be available in GP surgeries, pharmacies and other public outlets.

This is the fourth time the campaign has been run (the first occasion was back in the winter of 1999) and it aims to support health professionals in their management of patients with acute respiratory tract infections or sore throats.

The campaign will also encourage patients to seek advice from community pharmacists on safe and appropriate symptomatic relief, as well as explain that antibiotics will also kill the ‘good bacteria’ that we all need to keep us healthy.

Stressing the importance of the campaign, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Henrietta Campbell, said: “This campaign carries a very important message. If we do not limit the prescribing of antibiotics for minor complaints, they will eventually lose their effectiveness against many illnesses. Bacteria are very clever and can adapt to become resistant to antibiotics. This means that antibiotics are becoming less effective at fighting many infections.”

Dr Campbell added: “The objective of this campaign is to make patients aware that most coughs, sore throats and colds do not need antibiotic treatment, but can be managed with simple remedies while they run their natural course. This can be up to a week for sore throats and longer for colds and chesty coughs.”

There has been a marked reduction in antibiotic prescribing in Northern Ireland over the last five years, which indicates that the message is being driven home, both to the public and health professionals.

Figures indicate that there are around 325,000 fewer prescriptions being written each year for antibiotics than there were in 1998.

(KMcA)

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