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With optimism growing for the potential of a Covid-19 vaccine, pharmacists are warning that overuse and misuse of antibiotics could lead to the next global healthcare crisis. The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), marking European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November and the start of the WHO’s Antimicrobial Awareness Week, urged all stakeholders to be united in the global effort to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Community pharmacist and IPU President Mr Eoghan Hanly explained: “Antibiotics are vital medicines and have saved countless millions of lives. However, misuse and overuse has led to growing levels of infections that are resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics.

“Antibiotic-resistant infections such as MRSA, which were virtually unheard of a few decades ago, are now commonplace in Ireland. Other conditions which were treatable with standard medications, such as TB, are now increasingly becoming resistant to antibiotics. If these infections cannot be treated, they become significantly more dangerous and potentially fatal.

“We have spent almost a year reeling from the effects of Covid-19. This has shown us all the profound impacts that can arise when public health is challenged. If resistance to antibiotics is allowed to grow, these challenges will become more commonplace. It is everyone’s united responsibility to stop this happening.”

He continued: “The most important advice is that antibiotics should only be taken when necessary to treat a diagnosed bacterial infection and when prescribed by a qualified healthcare professional. They must be taken as directed and the full course completed. Anecdotally, we often hear of people who keep partial courses of antibiotics and self-medicate at a later stage without medical advice. This is incredibly foolish and potentially very dangerous.”