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Report on antimicrobial use a wake-up call: peak body

A recent report showing that the number of antimicrobials being prescribed in Australia continues to grow should be a wake-up call to community members and health professionals, NPS MedicineWise has said.

Chief executive Dr Lynn Weekes said the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia (AURA) report should remind consumers and health professionals to work together to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.

The report included NPS MedicineWise MedicineInsight data from 182 doctors’ practices, which showed that, where an antibiotic was prescribed and a reason given for that prescription, up to 50 per cent of patients who had a cold or upper respiratory tract infection had an antibiotic prescribed when it wasn’t actually needed.

Weekes said: “When we are facing a future where antibiotics may no longer work when we need them, this data is crucial in helping health professionals, policy makers and consumers alike to understand that they each play a part in making sure these life-saving medicines continue to work both now and in the future.”

A NPS MedicineWise survey of 1000 Australians, revealed that four in 10 people who went to the doctor last time they or their child had a cold or flu expected a prescription for antibiotics.

Of those surveyed, around one in five respondents said the reason they asked their doctor for antibiotics when they had a cold or flu was that they just hate being sick, 17 per cent said they believe that antibiotics help you get over cold or flu more quickly, 11 per cent said they cannot afford to take time off work and 11 per cent said their family relies on them and they don’t have time to be sick.

Weekes expressed concern that misconceptions continue to persist around the use of antibiotics for viral infections like ordinary colds and flu and addressed some of those commonly held.

“One misconception in particular that needs to be overcome is the mistaken belief that antibiotics help you get over a cold or flu more quickly: they don’t,” she said. “Colds, flu and most coughs are caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work on infections caused by bacteria, not those caused by viruses.”

NPS MedicineWise urged those who do come down with a cold or flu this winter to not ask for antibiotics and to let their doctor know that they only want antibiotics if they are truly necessary.

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