More work to be done in reducing antibiotic resistance

21 February 2012

Recent studies show that individuals are at risk of carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria after a course of antibiotics, according to NPS, and the evidence linking community prescribing with antibiotic resistance in the patient is outlined in the latest issue of NPS News 77: Antibiotic resistance: a problem for everyone.

NPS CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says that reducing inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics in the community will help to limit the spread of antibiotic resistance.

A recent report by BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health) demonstrates that GPs in Australia have decreased their level of prescribing of antibiotics for acute URTI and to a lesser degree, for ‘other RTIs’.

But Dr Weekes says that prescribing is only one side of the antibiotic story: the other is reducing consumer demand for antibiotics – a view that is strongly supported by the World Health Organisation.

“There is still a lot more work to be done and messages that need to be reinforced,” says Dr Weekes.

“Antibiotic resistance is a global problem, and even if prescribing of antibiotics in Australia was reduced by 25%, Australia would still sit above the OECD average.

“From NPS research, we know that patients often visit their GP expecting or asking for an antibiotic prescription so it’s important we raise the dangers of antibiotic misuse with them to reduce the incidence of this occurring.”

Dr Weekes says the first year of the five-year NPS antibiotic resistance campaign needs to focus on an issue which engages all consumers – respiratory tract infections.

“In order to begin to reduce antibiotic resistance we need to first capture the community’s imagination, and RTIs are a good place to begin – because everyone catches colds and can relate to the topic.

“But it’s important to note that RTIs are only a small piece of the antibiotic resistance puzzle.

“Subsequent years of the campaign will focus on other infections including urinary tract infections and skin infections.”

Experts at the Antimicrobial Resistance Summit in 2011 agreed that “educational initiatives need to define antimicrobial resistance as an urgent public health issue” and that “the NPS antibiotic educational campaign should also be reinstituted1”.

“NPS is looking forward to working with health professionals, consumers, member organisations, stakeholders and the media to help reduce the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics, and through this, reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistance in our community,” says Dr Weekes.

1. (Thomas Gottlieb and Graeme R Nimmo, Antibiotic resistance is an emerging threat to public health: an urgent call to action at the Antimicrobial Resistance Summit 2011, MJA, Volume 194, Number 6, 21 March 2011).


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.