Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Cystitis can cause a huge amount of discomfort for patients, and whilst antibiotics can help in some cases, they are not always the most appropriate treatment as the cause is not always bacterial.
“Aside from the patient safety risks associated with deregulating access to some of these powerful drugs, we are currently amidst an international drive to reduce antibiotic use, in order to curb growing global resistance to them.
“Although the strain of antibiotics referenced in the article has actually seen very little resistance built up against it so far, making it more widely available would inevitably increase resistance to it and remove one of the few antibiotics with low resistance rates from the formulary, therefore adding to this global problem.
“GPs already face enormous pressure to prescribe antibiotics, and it often takes a lot of effort to persuade patients that they are not always the answer to treating illness – making them available without a prescription would simply undermine this. There is also the risk that bypassing the GP for patients with cystitis might lead to recurrent strains of the infection being treated inappropriately, and more serious conditions going undetected.
“Instead of increasing the availability of antibiotics for patients suffering from cystitis, we should concentrate our efforts on making alternative treatments to cystitis more widely available – and identifying new non-antibiotic strategies – to reduce the need for and resistance to the drugs, so that they will still be effective when our patients really need them.”