Press Release

Pharmacy’s role in reducing harms and deaths from antimicrobial resistance

MSPs in the Scottish Parliament are today debating The Scottish Approach to Managing the Global Risk of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is predicted by scientists to be the leading cause of death worldwide by 2050, resulting in 10 million deaths every year. 

AMR has the potential to nullify over 100 years of modern medicine, rendering antibiotics that treat life threatening illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis and TB far less effective, and potentially completely ineffective.

In addition, common surgeries, such as hip operations and caesarean sections, could become life threatening procedures.

However, there are many things that we can all do – the public, patients and health professionals – to tackle AMR.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is the professional leadership body for pharmacists in Scotland and the rest of Great Britain. Pharmacists can help reduce AMR though:

  • Providing information to the public about how to manage common self-limiting infections which do not require an antibiotic, about when to seek further help if the condition does not resolve and about when antibiotics are needed. This will help reduce inappropriate, harmful and unnecessary use of antibiotics.
  • Developing guidelines to ensure infections are treated with the most appropriate antibiotics, at the right dose and for the correct length of time.
  • Prescribing antibiotics according to guidelines and giving advice to patients about how to take antibiotics safely.
  • Encouraging the public to return any unused medicines, including antibiotics, to pharmacies for safe disposal.

A clear link exists between antibiotics getting into the environment and the development of AMR. This is why it is crucial that medicines are disposed of safely and never flushed down a toilet or sink, or put into household rubbish. RPS has produced an environmental sustainability policy which includes a section on reducing AMR through tackling pollution by pharmaceutical waste.

Commenting on today’s Parliamentary debate on AMR, Director for Scotland at RPS, Clare Morrison said:

“Antimicrobial resistance is a real threat which has the potential to devastate human health. Thankfully, there are concrete actions we can take right now to tackle this. But we all need to act now.

“As experts in medicines, pharmacists have a unique role to play in advising the public and healthcare professionals about actions to limit the effects of antimicrobial resistance. These include providing advice on: managing self-limiting conditions without using antibiotics, prescribing antibiotics appropriately and on the importance of returning any unused medicines to pharmacies for safe disposal.”