Antibiotic resistance 'one of the most significant threats' to patient safety

Pharmacists are warning against the misuse and over-reliance on medication

Building up a resistance to antibiotics is one of the single biggest threats to patient safety in Ireland, according to pharmacists. 

On European Antibiotics Awareness Day, pharmacists warn that antibiotics need to be respected and used sparingly, appropriately and only when absolutely necessary.

The Irish Pharmacists Union (IPU) have seen an increase in people availing of the medication for the treatment of colds and flus, saying it is "detrimental to the future health of all patients and is putting patients at risk".

"If we allow antibiotic resistance to grow, the antibiotics used to treat infections today will become ineffective or will stop working altogether in the future", IPU President Darragh Connolly said. "This will not only cripple our ability to fight routine infections but will also undermine the treatment of more complicated infections, especially in patients with chronic diseases.

"It has been medically proven that antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections and do not work for the common cold, cough, sore throat or sinus infection."

Mr Connolly advised patients to finish the full course of antibiotics if prescribed, to not save antibiotics for future use and not to share them with others. 

In September, 193 countries within the United Nations committed to stamping out drug-resistant infections.

Six years in the making, the international commitment could prevent 700,000 deaths a year, say experts.

It is the fourth time a UN declaration has been reached on a health issue - following HIV in 2001, non-communicable diseases in 2011 and Ebola in 2013.

The signatories now have two years to report back with an action plan.

The UK has set its own target to reduce inappropriate prescriptions and the incidence of high risk bacterial infections in hospitals by 50% by 2020 and cut the level of antibiotic use in the agricultural sector to 50mg/kg by 2020.