What can pharmacists do to halt the alarming rise of antimicrobial resistance and why will they need to look further than their shop walls if they are to make a difference asks Rachel Mountain, reporter.

AMR is clearly an issue that strikes at the heart of the pharmacy profession, aptly demonstrated by pharmacists leading the number of healthcare professionals who signed up to become Antibiotic Guardians.

The PHE campaign, that started in 2014, has seen a surge of support with more than 27,000 people pledging to make better use of antibiotics.

“What we are doing for the first time is moving from awareness to engagement,” says Dr Ashiru-Oredope, pharmacist lead for the AMR programme at PHE and lead for the Antibiotic Guardian campaign,

“We have, for the first time, created a way to campaign that focuses on engagement rather than awareness raising only.

“Who cares about antibiotic resistance – that’s really our passion and we wanted to be able to quantify that.”

Evaluation of the campaign shows that those that became Antibiotic Guardians self-reported increased knowledge and changed behaviour.

Nevertheless, it is likely to be an appreciable period of time before the campaign will be able to yield results showing if the “ultimate aim” of reduced prescribing has been achieved.

“Once we have significantly more numbers of Antibiotic Guardians we can begin to consider impact of the campaign on outcomes such as demand for antibiotics, visiting the pharmacy for self-limiting infections and antibiotic prescriptions,” she adds.

In the meantime, the threat of AMR rising at a phenomenal rate thrusting healthcare back to a pre-antibiotic era continues to loom.

Luc Besançon, general secretary and CEO of the International Pharmaceutical Federation, says: “Procedures such as surgery would carry a much higher risk owing to an increased likelihood of sepsis.

“Treatment for cancer will be more dangerous. Diseases would kill many more people and we would go back to an age of far lower life expectancy.

“As experts in medicines and their responsible use, pharmacists have many of the solutions to AMR. But we must all act now.”