How dogma trumps evidence in the practice of prescribing antibiotics

Helen Lambert 150Professor Helen Lambert is Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Bristol. Her long-term work concerns popular therapeutics and medical plurality in India. She was the ESRC’s Research Champion for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) from 2015-2017 and is leading an interdisciplinary research collaboration on Pathways to Antibiotic Use in China with colleagues at Anhui Medical University.

Most of the UK population have grown up with the message that patients must complete their course of antibiotics to stop drug resistance developing. A recent paper in the British Medical Journal caused international controversy by pointing out that far from preventing the emergence of antibacterial resistance, greater exposure to antibiotics increases the risk of acquiring resistant pathogens; and where research evidence exists, shorter courses of antibiotics are mostly (though not always) as effective as longer ones.

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The rhetoric of resistance

Today a landmark declaration agreeing to combat antimicrobial resistance has been signed by 193 countries at the United Nations General Assembly.

The agreement follows a worldwide campaign led by Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to highlight the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The UK’s £369 million investment in international AMR surveillance and research programmes includes £50 million in Research Council investments.

Dr Helen Lambert is the ESRC’s AMR Research Champion. Here she suggests that  stigmatising low-income countries won’t help get global consensus on tackling AMR.

Helen Lambert

Helen Lambert





In the run up to the UN Global Assembly’s high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance (21 September 2016), lobbying by European policymakers is stepping up a gear.

The meeting is seen as a unique opportunity to make a concrete impact on measures to stem the rise of drug-resistant infections at global level.
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