Headlines: February 26th, 2009

The Department of Health has launched a ‘no prescription pad’ campaign to cut the use of antibiotics which don’t work on colds, most coughs or sore throats.

The campaign will run through March and April and adverts will be appearing in newspapers and magazines. Leaflets and posters will also be displayed in GP practices and pharmacies throughout the country.

The ‘no prescription pad’ will help GPs resist pressure from patients who believe that the health service is failing them if they do not receive a prescription. The expectation is that by giving the patient a form, not unlike a prescription, it will have greater impact than asking GPs to explain to patients why they do not need a course of antibiotics and why antibiotics would not help.

The ‘non prescription’ form that will be handed to patients carries the message that taking antibiotics for the wrong reasons, such as against colds or flu, has no benefit because you probably have a viral infection. It also provides advice that your infection should start to clear up in a few days. You should drink plenty of fluids, get some rest, ask your pharmacist for advice about over-the-counter remedies to ease your symptoms, such as paracetamol.

It is expected that the cut in the drugs bill will well exceed the cost of the campaign, but patient resistance is unpredictable.