Thérèse Coffey criticized for giving leftover antibiotics to a friend | Health

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Doctors have rounded up Health Secretary Therese Coffey after she admitted to sharing prescription drugs with others, actions the British Medical Association has described as both dangerous and against the law.

Coffey told officials at a meeting last month that she had given leftover antibiotics to a poor friend, an admission that came as the discussion on how to ease pressure on struggling GPs passed public behavior around antibiotics.

Coffey’s comments have caused despair and disbelief among medical professionals who fear members of the public will come to the false conclusion that it is safe and legal to share unused medication because the Secretary of State had done it. A doctor accused Coffey of “monumental stupidity”.

“Sharing prescription drugs, especially antibiotics, is not only potentially dangerous, but also against the law, and we ask our health secretary to support us instead in encouraging good and safe prescribing practices. “said another doctor, Richard Van Mellaerts at the BMA. .

The backlash came amid reports of plans to allow pharmacies to prescribe antibiotics without patients being seen by their GP first. The proposals have raised concerns that antibiotics could be distributed more freely, leading to more drug-resistant microbes and ultimately threatening patient health.

“Antibiotics are a valuable resource and should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary,” Van Mellaerts said. “Overuse of antibiotics risks making them less effective and making some infections increasingly difficult to treat, which can then increase pressure on health services as patients remain ill.”

While pharmacists play a vital role in supporting GPs, making it easier for others to prescribe antibiotics was not the way to reduce the demand for GP appointments or the wider pressures to which doctors face, he added.

Veteran doctors have long warned that overuse of antibiotics is leading to the emergence of drug-resistant microbes and risks a return to “the dark ages of life-threatening surgery.” The more antibiotics are used, the more opportunities bacteria have to develop resistance, eventually rendering the drugs useless.

Dr Rachel Clarke, an NHS palliative care doctor who works at a hospital near Oxford, said it was ‘monumental foolishness’ for Coffey to hand out antibiotics to others.

“What she has admitted to doing is illegal, and either she thinks she can break the law with impunity or she is too ignorant to know that distributing NHS drugs to people who are not the intended recipient is a very serious matter,” Clarke said. . “If you have someone of that stature saying ‘well, I’m handing out antibiotics to my friends and family’, that’s practically encouraging the public to do the same. It’s so irresponsible.

Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, said plans for pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics were unclear, but were unlikely to involve setting available over-the-counter medications. “It will likely be a protocol-based prescription for conditions such as uncomplicated UTIs in women,” he said.

“I think pharmacists are capable of undertaking this work, but I would rather see increased investment in basic GP services to improve patient access than fragmentation of primary care delivery and mixed range of interventions that the government is introducing, with little success, to reduce pressures on NHS general practice,” he said.

A spokesperson for Coffey said: ‘The Secretary of State has explored a range of policy options to relieve the pressure on GPs, including whether to allow greater prescribing by pharmacists – as it happens in many places, including Scotland. These far-reaching discussions included reflections on the importance of antimicrobial resistance and societal behaviors around antibiotics.

Based on Scottish data, the Department of Health and Social Care estimates that prescribing antibiotics alone for urinary tract infections could save £8.4million and 400,000 doctor appointments general practitioner per year. Beyond antibiotics, pharmacists could be relied upon to prescribe medications for hypertension, high cholesterol, contraception, and minor illnesses.

A source close to Coffey said his comments were private remarks and a personal anecdote made during a meeting about antibiotics. “She understands the importance of antimicrobial resistance, would encourage people not to share drugs and will not do so in the future,” they added.

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