THOUSANDS of lives could be put at risk in Wigan due to the over-dependency on antibiotics.
Experts today warned this could soon mean common hospital bugs proving lethal and that the borough could soon be “cast back into the dark ages of medicine” unless action is taken.
The concerns were voiced about the growing threat of resistance to antibiotics after figures revealed the Wigan borough has one of the highest spends on the drugs in the region.
Common infections such as Clostridium difficile (C-Diff) or the norovirus could kill people who contract them after building up a resistant to antibiotics.
Figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that £1,063,141 was spent by Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (WBCCG) on antibiotics - the third highest spend in Greater Manchester.
This equates to some 211,616 prescriptions which works out at 66,406 per 100,000 people; meaning two thirds of the population of the borough received antibiotics in the past 12 months.
It comes as health chiefs and even the prime minister issued grave warnings about the growing resistance to the drugs with people becoming far to dependent on them.
It is estimated that drug-resistant strains of bacteria are responsible for 5,000 deaths a year in the UK and 25,000 deaths a year in Europe.
Dr Tim Dalton, local GP and chair of WBCCG said: “We fully support any steps that reduce the amount of antibiotics prescribed to people across Wigan borough because over use can reduce their effectiveness, increase your chance of picking up the vomiting bug norovirus and create other health problems.
“Resistance can be a particular problem in hospitals and places like old peoples’ homes where many vulnerable people are gathered closely together.
“Patients in hospital often need antibiotics, and intensive use means resistant bacteria are more likely to emerge with time. One bacterium, which can occurs in hospitals, called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), is now resistant to so many antibiotics that it is becoming very difficult to treat.”
Chief Medical Officer for England Prof Dame Sally Davies described the threat of antimicrobial resistance as a “ticking timebomb” and said the dangers it posed should be ranked along with terrorism.
She spoke at a meeting of scientists at the Royal Society this year which warned that a response was needed akin to efforts to combat climate change.
Dame Sally said: “New antibiotics made by the biotech and pharmaceutical industry will be central to resolving this crisis which will impact on all areas of modern medicine.”
Wigan health chiefs say we all need to think before turning to antibiotics.
Dr Dalton added: “Everyone can help reduce these problems by not demanding antibiotics from their GP, reducing the risk of getting an infection by maintaining high standards of cleanliness around your house, using a handkerchief to cough or blow your nose and regularly washing your hands.”