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Urgent new investigation into curbs on antibiotics

An urgent investigation into antibiotic prescribing is under way since Government advisers learnt that patients with lower respiratory tract infections might be dying after failing to receive vital drugs.

Experts have been given three months by the Specialist Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance (SACAR) to assess evidence that the

drive to contain antibiotic resistance has gone too far.

The move follows the release of a new study from the University of Aberdeen, reported in Pulse last month, which shows pneumonia deaths rose by 50 per cent in the late 1990s, at the same time that GPs cut antibiotic scripts for LRTIs by 30 per cent.

Following a meeting of SACAR last month, Professor Richard Wise, chair of the committee and a Birmingham clinical microbiologist, said: 'We are concerned that patients might not be receiving optimal treatment for respiratory tract infections but we are cautious about overinterpreting information from one published paper.

'As a result we have asked a number of experts to urgently evaluate the current evidence in detail, and identify further evidence of any potential risk to patients of promoting prudent prescribing.'

GPs are advised to continue present practice in the meantime.

Experts, including Dr Douglas Fleming, SACAR member and director of the RCGP Birmingham research unit, will be looking at other research articles, scientific data and prescribing rates and

talking to other experts in the field.

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