In 2014, the Government set up a review to assess a growing problem in modern medicine; the growth of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It is predicted that if this issue is not tackled, AMR could be a bigger killer than cancer by 2050. Potentially it could radically reduce positive outcomes from routine illnesses and routine surgery. The problem has been described as a return to the ‘Dark Ages of Medicine’.
In particular the review noted that routine medical treatments which could be at risk include caesarean sections, chemotherapy and organ transplantation. The problem is not just expected to affect high income countries but developing countries whose immature health systems will struggle to combat the AMR as they try and build more effective healthcare systems.
It is now recognised that inappropriate prescription of antibiotics where infection is viral, is likely to be responsible for around two thirds of courses of antibiotics in the US.
The way forward which is now proposed, is to introduce rapid diagnostic tools which could enable doctors to identify in minutes the strain of bacterial infection present and the antibiotics to which it is resistant or susceptible. This would enable better planning in prescription of antibiotics.
Current tests takes at least 36 hours to provide confirmed results to doctors. However, tests providing much fast results have been in use for a number of years in the Netherlands and Scandinavia and these countries have the lowest prescribing rates for antibiotics in Europe.
Although such a programme has the potential to drastically reduce prescribing levels, currently there is no financial incentive for drug companies to engage with such a programme as the consequence of lower prescribing is a reduction in revenue streams for them as fewer drugs are needed. This issue may need to be addressed by subsidies or financial incentives.
Our Clinical Negligence Team deal with issues arising from negligent medical care. If you or a member of your family have a concern about medical treatment that you have received, please contact a member of the team on 0800 316 8892.