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Nearly 60% more antibiotics prescribed in December than August

In December 2014 59% more antibiotics were prescribed by GPs than in August 2015, “despite the fact that many of the illnesses treated by antibiotics are not seasonal” according to an Antibiotic Research UK report released today.

The researchers from EXASOL, who analysed prescription data for five years from August 2010 to July 2015, said that this seasonal jump is “far too high” and that there was “no obvious reason” for this increase.

However, one explanation is that patients are requesting antibiotics for coughs and colds, and “GPs are acceding to these requests despite the advice they have been given not to prescribe antibiotics for viral conditions such as these,” Professor Colin Garner of Antibiotic Research UK said.

He added: “It is true that colds and flus sometimes lead to bacterial infections due to suppressed immune systems and so we would expect a minor increase in antibiotic prescription in the winter months, however the data shows us a 59% jump in four months and this is far too high.

The analysis also showed that the gap between prescriptions in the least and most deprived areas of England is widening, and the difference in prescribing between the bottom and top 1% by deprivation is 20%. For example Greater London doctors prescribe 21% fewer antibiotics than the north of England. 

The data also reveals that the most deprived coastal towns in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Essex are prescribing the most antibiotics in the country, with Clacton-on-Sea, the UK's most deprived area, almost twice the national average.