Help combat antibiotic resistance with better patient communication

14 February 2012

The latest NPS News highlights the vital role that prescribers play in limiting the spread of antibiotic resistance, and reviews the latest evidence about antibiotic resistance in the individual.

The publication, NPS News 77: Antibiotic resistance: a problem for everyone, coincides with the rollout of the NPS antibiotics campaign to health professionals. It looks at the latest evidence in this area and emphasises the importance of effective patient communication in reducing antibiotic prescribing.

NPS Clinical Adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser says that according to recent data, the issue of antibiotic resistance is not front of mind for most GPs when prescribing an antibiotic.

“GPs may sometimes feel that community-based issues relating to antibiotic resistance are difficult to address in their daily practice. But there are steps that they can take,” says Dr Stowasser.

“Through effective communication and a focus on patient safety, GPs can reduce the demand for antibiotics for self-limiting conditions like respiratory tract infections. This, in turn, can help to reduce the levels of individual- and community-based antibiotic resistance.”

Increasingly, studies demonstrate that individuals can carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria after a routine course of antibiotics for as long as six to 12 months.

“Many patients are unaware of the issues surrounding antibiotic resistance and how it can affect them, their friends and family. GPs are ideally placed to explain the impact that antibiotic resistance can have,” says Dr Stowasser.

“Prescribing an antibiotic now, for infections that resolve without drug treatment, means that antibiotics are likely to be less effective for them when they need to treat a severe infection in the future.”

Evidence shows that patient satisfaction is more likely to be influenced by good communication than by prescribing an antibiotic. Using the NPS symptomatic management pad (for respiratory tract infection) during consultations can help prescribers to communicate why an antibiotic is not needed on this occasion, discuss self-management of symptoms, and address the issue of antibiotic resistance.

  • NPS News 77: Antibiotic resistance: a problem for everyone is available at 
  • Case study 72: Management of rhinosinusitis is also available with this edition of the NPS News
  • The NPS symptomatic management pad for use in consultations is currently available as a writeable PDF form on the NPS website 
  • The tool will also be available on GP prescribing software (Medical Director and Best Practice) from mid-March 2012 and hard copies will be available to order at


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.