Confusion persists over correct use of antibiotics

  • 25/11/2020
  • Press Release
  • Research shows Brits less likely than others in Europe to know how they work
  • Two-thirds are concerned about germs developing resistance to antibiotics
  • UK has superior knowledge when it comes to how alcohol affects performance

Brits know less about how antibiotics work and what they should be used to treat than their European cousins – but our knowledge about how alcohol may affect their performance is higher than average.

Research* among 2,010 people across the UK aged between 18 and 99 by STADA Group, parent company of Huddersfield-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Thornton & Ross (T&R), found that only two thirds of us know that antibiotics fight bacterial and not viral infections – well below the 73 per cent survey average.

As part of the STADA 2020 Health Report, 24,087 people were surveyed across 12 European countries to gather a snapshot of attitudes towards health and care. Research showed just 67 per cent of respondents in the UK knew what antibiotics should be used to treat, ahead of only France and Russia.

The findings are released in time for World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (November 18-24), backed by the World Health Organisation with the aim of improving awareness and understanding of antibiotic resistance.

The 31 per cent of Brits who wrongly thought that antibiotics can combat viral infections is slightly below the 32 per cent average, as is the 15 per cent of UK nationals who believe antibiotics to be effective against fungal infections (average 21 per cent).


Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of Brits surveyed expressed concerns about antimicrobial resistance (AMR), just below the 66 per cent survey average and seventh among the most concerned across all 12 countries. Just over two-fifths (42 per cent) said they felt antibiotics were prescribed too frequently and too soon. A further 22 per cent felt not enough money was being invested into AMR research; while four per cent blamed the media for playing up resistance concerns, compared with a five per cent survey average.


On the whole, Brits gave a mixed picture in terms of their knowledge of which drinks may impair the effect of antibiotics. We have above-average awareness around the potential impact of citrus juices on antibiotics – a third (34 per cent) of Brits mentioned a potential impact on antibiotics, versus the survey average of 28 per cent.


The 72 per cent of Brits who knew that alcohol could interact with certain antibiotics was just ahead of the survey average of 70 per cent. But just 12 per cent of people in the UK recognised the potential problems from drinking milk with some antibiotics – half the average 25 per cent awareness as the lowest national proportion in the survey.


Stephen Makin, vice-president for consumer health research and development at T&R and the wider STADA Group, said the research pinpointed gaps in people’s understanding that could adversely affect their treatment.


“Better knowledge about how to use antibiotic therapies appropriately should contribute to more effective treatment,” he said. “Well-informed people know when and for how long it makes sense to use antibiotics and which food and drinks can hamper therapy. We can all play a part in ensuring that these lifesaving drugs will be available for future generations.”


T&R develops, manufactures and supplies a wide range of branded over-the-counter medicines, dermatological solutions and other healthcare and hygiene products including KY Jelly®, Zoflora®, Hedrin® and Setlers® at its headquarters in Linthwaite, Huddersfield.