Use of medicines and antimicrobial resistance

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Our fourth and last special patient safety focus for 2015 is dedicated to the use of medicines and anti-microbial resistance. We want to raise awareness among our members on the importance of this topic which, if not properly addressed, can affect the lives of millions of people.

Use of medicines, including antibiotics, is an important aspect of self-management, but may contribute to anti-microbial resistance. Actions to underpin safe use of medicines for patients include health literacy and empowerment coupled with supportive healthcare and social systems.

People can often treat minor illnesses or symptoms themselves, without the advice of a healthcare professional (self-medication)[1], which can, if appropriately done, bring value to the health systems by reducing costs of healthcare.[2]

Self-medication is also an important part of self-managing a health condition, often by taking a treatment agreed upon with the healthcare professional.Adherence is the extent to which the patient’s behaviour matches the agreed recommendations from the prescriber. 

One particular aspect of use of medicines relates to the improper use of antibiotics which contributes to microbial resistance. This can happen when, for example, people use leftover antibiotics from previous treatments, getting antibiotics at the pharmacy or online without a prescription, or not taking the antibiotics as recommended.[3]

Patients’ empowerment and stakeholders’ collaboration matter

In our view, there needs to be more effort from all stakeholders to maximise the skills and resources already available to support self-management more effectively. EPF’s recent position paper on adherence stresses the importance of information, health literacy, and shared decision-making to ensure prescribed treatments fit optimally within each patient’s life. Health professionals should also help patients by guiding them to appropriate self-management education, support groups and decision aids in a variety of formats.

EPF is taking forward the empowerment of patients with the support of its member organisations. Our current campaign “Patients prescribe E5 for sustainable health systems” is focused on valuing the experience of patients, but also supporting them to take informed decisions by promoting the “5 Es of empowerment”: education, expertise, equality, experience, and engagement of patients.

Contact: EPF Director of Policy, Kaisa Immonen-Charalambous,