New NPS campaign to help combat antibiotic resistance

23 JANUARY 2012

On 1 February 2012 NPS will launch a health professional education program as part of its new five-year campaign addressing the critical issue of antibiotic resistance

Beginning with a series of educational visits by NPS facilitators, the first year of the campaign will encourage health professionals to adhere more closely to therapeutic guidelines when prescribing antibiotics for respiratory tract infections and to communicate with patients about the dangers of overusing and misusing antibiotics.

NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser says the increasing prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria have heightened the need for action.

“Health professionals are well aware of the dangers posed by the upsurge in resistant strains of bacteria developing and spreading throughout the Australian community,” says Dr Stowasser, clinical adviser at NPS.

“Recent studies have calculated the individual risk of carrying antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria after a course of antibiotics. People who carry these resistant strains may find that antibiotics are less effective when they are needed to treat more severe infections in the near future.

“The implications could be catastrophic if we don’t act now to combat the issues contributing to antibiotic resistance in the community and experts have suggested we may return to the pre-antibiotic era.”

As part of the campaign, NPS will release a series of educational resources designed to help facilitate communication between patients and health professionals and provide the most current and relevant information on antibiotic resistance. Resources include NPS publications, a clinical e-audit for GPs, a webinar focusing on the use of diagnostic tests in upper respiratory tract infections, case studies for nurses, practice managers, pharmacists and others, and patient counselling tools.

Dr Stowasser says health professionals have a vital and varied role in helping to fight antibiotic resistance in the community.

“As primary prescribers, the role of GPs is crucial when it comes to combating antibiotic overuse. We know patients with respiratory tract infections often visit their doctor expecting to leave with a script, and GPs may feel pressure to provide one,” says Dr Stowasser.

“Evidence suggests, however, that patient satisfaction is more likely to be influenced by good communication with their GP than a prescription for an antibiotic. A lot can be done in the practice and in the community itself to promote symptomatic management of viral respiratory tract infections for which antibiotics are not indicated.

“Providing information about the dangers of antibiotic overuse can help change consumer attitudes towards antibiotics and help give patients the confidence to self-manage the symptoms of their respiratory tract infection.”

Pharmacists are also well placed to educate consumers about the safe and effective use of antibiotics.

“Pharmacies are often the first port of call for patients with a cold or flu so pharmacists have a vital role to play in encouraging symptomatic management of these illnesses,” says Dr Stowasser.  

“Pharmacists can help by encouraging patients to take prescribed antibiotics as directed, because failing to do so can lead to the development of resistant strains of bacteria.”

In daily interactions with patients, nurses and other health professionals can also initiate conversations about antibiotic resistance, and provide support and reassurance for patients who may not understand the impact of overuse and misuse on individual and public health.

The consumer phase of the NPS antibiotic-resistance campaign will commence in April 2012 and details will be available closer to the date.

ENDS

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.