The spread of hospital-type "superbugs" is being assisted by GPs overprescribing antibiotics in contravention of guidelines, says research outlined at the British Pharmaceutical Conference.
Of 4,000 prescriptions issued in Western Cheshire during December 2007, 13% were for antibiotics not recommended in the local PCT formulary guidelines (Management of Infection Guidelines for Primary Care).
The study by researchers from John Moores University indicated that GPs' preferences and pressure from patients both played a part in the choice of drugs.
Four specific antibiotics were frequently prescribed (Co-Amoxiclav, Clarithromycin, Quinolones and Clindamyicn) despite links to antibiotic resistance and not being listed as firstline treatment for many illnesses.
Head researcher Tristan Sweeney said: "The frontline of the fight against so-called superbugs is with prescribing – determining why doctors prescribe certain antibiotics is key to our understanding of the problem and how to address it.
"Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed because doctors feel pressured by patients who have a misguided belief that they will be effective in treating their viral illness.
"Pharmacists are the experts in medicines and can advise and educate patients about antibiotics and other medicines, and whether or not they should see a doctor."