A poll of 1,000 GPs has revealed that the vast majority - a whopping 93% - feel under pressure to prescribe antibiotics from pushy patients.

According to the survey, undertaken by MedeConnect on behalf of Longitude Prize 2014, 28% of GPs prescribe antibiotics “several times a week” even when they’re not sure they’re medically needed, while 70% said they hand them despite being unsure whether the infection is viral or bacterial and 24% highlighted a lack of easy-to-use diagnostic tools as fuelling them problem.

Astonishingly, nearly half of the GPs surveyed (45%) said they have prescribed antibiotics for a viral infection knowing that it won’t treat the condition.

The findings are particularly pertinent given the looming crisis with antimicrobial resistance, and the efforts to stop the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics to help put the brakes on the problem.

In the Autumn, the Longitude Prize will put out a call for entries for its current challenge to create a cost-effective, accurate, rapid and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will help health professionals worldwide to administer the right antibiotics at the right time.

Appropriate use

“Across the globe we need accurate point-of-care diagnostic tools to maximise the chances that antibiotics are only used when medically necessary and that the right ones are selected to treat the condition”, said Tamar Ghosh, who leads Longitude Prize.

But “stemming the misuse and overuse of antibiotics” is also an “important step when we could be waiting many years for other solutions, including novel alternatives to antibiotics coming to the market”, she stressed.

In July, Prime Minister David Cameron announced an antibiotics review looking at the increase in drug-resistant strains, the lack of development of new drugs, and over-use in clinical practice, warning of a return to the dark ages if the issues are not addressed and fast. 

But earlier this month it also emerged that the use of antibiotics for the common cold has rocketed 42% in 12 years, again highlighting the enormity of the task to change both the mindset of both doctors and patients.