The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has named pharmacists as "very important" in changing public perceptions of antibiotic use.
Pharmacists could help curb public demand for antibiotics to treat self-limiting conditions such as coughs and colds, Nice said in draft guidelines released on Tuesday (September 8).
It stressed that patients with self-limiting conditions need to see pharmacists – not GPs or A&E – as the “first point of call” for advice.
The committee felt that self-care needs to become the “easy choice” for people, it added.
Nice also called for a “package of interventions” to raise public awareness of the risks of antimicrobial resistance and the typical length of self-limiting conditions. This should be disseminated through all care settings, including pharmacies, social care and out-of-hours services, it said.
OTC medicines body the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) agreed that patients concerned about the symptoms of a cold or seeking advice on suitable treatments should turn to a pharmacist for “expert advice and reassurance”.
The organisation’s research showed that more than a third of patients who visit a GP with cold or flu symptoms do so to get an antibiotic prescription, it claimed. “This shows that the message that antibiotics are not effective at treating colds and flu is just not getting through to people,” said PAGB chief executive John Smith.
Last month, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) responded to a separate Nice document on antimicrobial resistance by renewing its call for a national minor ailments scheme as a way to “proactively” reduce antibiotic prescriptions.