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Restrict antibiotic prescribing for COPD, NICE urges

Antibiotics should be restricted when used for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the National Institute for Health and Care and Excellence (NICE) has urged.

In draft guidance published on 9 July NICE recommended that healthcare professionals prescribe antibiotics to people with COPD only when suffering from severe acute exacerbation.

However, acute exacerbations are sometimes caused by viral infections or smoking, meaning that they would not be effectively treated by antibiotics, the guidance said.

‘Limited benefits’

NICE director of the centre for guidelines Professor Mark Baker said: ‘The evidence shows that there are limited benefits of using antibiotics for managing acute exacerbations of COPD and that it is important other options are taken into account before antibiotics are prescribed.

‘The new guideline will help healthcare professionals make responsible prescribing decisions to not only help people manage their condition but also reduce the risk of resistant infections.’

Tackling antibiotics resistance

In 2016, NHS England launched a programme to tackle antibiotic over usage to prevent the ‘growing problem of antibiotic resistance, one of the most significant threats to patients’ safety’, it said.

COPD update committee chair Dr Andrew Molyneux said: ‘COPD is a common and life-threatening illness, causing 115,000 admissions to hospital every year.

‘For some people who have frequent exacerbations, prophylactic antibiotics can help to reduce the frequency of exacerbations and admissions to hospital.

‘However, the benefits of prophylactic antibiotics needs to be balanced against the potential for more antibiotic resistance.’