​Online prescribing of antibiotics is reckless, the BDA believes

14 February 2017

Prescribing antibiotics without seeing dental patients first is indefensible, the British Dental Association said in response to the Sunday Mirror's probe into the online prescribing of antibiotics.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been identified by the World Health Organization as the most serious global threat to public health, but online prescribing encourages a view that antibiotics can be obtained easily at the click of a button when their use should be restrained to only when they are absolutely necessary.

The Sunday Mirror revealed just how easy it is to get antibiotics online and how difficult it is to regulate online providers. It took one journalist, posing as a patient, just three minutes to get one antibiotic prescription for cystitis approved after completing a questionnaire. The journalists were even able to get multiple batches of pills because there was no apparent cross-checking between sites.

Prescribing antibiotics without adequate medical checks is against National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. It also undermines government warnings that if effective controls are not put in place to curb unnecessary prescribing, antibiotic resistant diseases will overtake cancer as the leading cause of death.

Commenting on the Sunday Mirror's investigation, the Chair of the BDA's Health and Science Committee, Russ Ladwa, said:

"The health risk presented by AMR requires a change in gear from patients, practitioners, and policymakers alike. To this end, the Sunday Mirror's article reinforces the importance of raising awareness of AMR with the public, and in the case of a suspected dental infection seeing a dentist first rather than going online for antibiotics.

"Patients may be surprised to learn that antibiotics won't cure their dental abscesses and that surgical intervention coupled with analgesia is more often the treatment of choice for tooth-related pain. It doesn't help that some online pharmacies are dishing out antibiotics like smarties for dental problems, which sends out completely the wrong message to patients.

"As dentistry accounts for around 10% of antibiotics prescribed in the UK, dentists are willing to take responsibility for their share in combatting this risk.

"The BDA has been in the forefront of ensuring that dentists are aware of the need to prescribe antibiotics judiciously.

"In a collaboration with national and international experts, the BDA launched a consensus report in 2015 to help dentists play their part in the global fight against AMR.

"What we don't have is a contract that provides adequate time for dentists to treat emergency cases. So we call on the government to recognise the threat posed by AMR and factor this into any reformed package."

About the BDA

The British Dental Association (BDA) is the voice of dentists and dental students in the UK. We bring dentists together, support our members through advice and education, and represent their interests. As a trade union and professional body, we represent all fields of dentistry including general practice, community dental services, the armed forces, hospitals, academia, public health and research. We are owned and run by our members and all our income is reinvested for the benefit of the profession.

For further information, please contact the BDA's media team on 0207 563 4145/46 or visit the BDA's news centre. You can also follow news from the BDA on Twitter. Membership packages reflect the varied needs of dentists.