17 Jun, 13 | by BMJ Group
JAMA 12 June 2013 Vol 309
2345 “Moral panic” is a term which dates back to the 1830s and describes “an intense feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to threaten the social order.” Just now the Chief Medical Officer for England is putting her weight behind a campaign of moral panic about antibiotic overuse by doctors, and if I dissent I shall be considered a threat to the social order. We are supposed to confess that as GPs we greatly overuse antibiotics, and as a result they are losing their effectiveness and we are about to return to the pre-antimicrobial era. The study reported here from the USA shows that primary care paediatricians can be persuaded to use fewer broad spectrum antibiotics for respiratory infections in favour of amoxicillin and penicillin V. The fact is that after 60+ years of “overuse,” these remain highly effective first-line treatments in primary care, and you don’t need most of the rest. We may differ on the likelihood of their usefulness in particular clinical contexts, but there is no room for moral panic. Dame Sally should save that for the use of antibiotics in animal feed.