Antibiotics may be overused in aged care in Australia

On any given day, almost 10% of residents in aged-care homes in Australia are using an antibiotic, but only around 3% have any signs or symptoms of infection.

These findings come from the latest Aged Care National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey and are summarised in an article in Australian Prescriber today. The article has been published ahead of World Antibiotic Awareness Week (18–24 November 2019).

Associate Professor Noleen Bennett from the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Melbourne and her co-authors found that nearly 65% of residents recently prescribed antibiotics had no documented signs or symptoms of a suspected infection in the week before they started treatment. Also, over a quarter had been using antibiotics for longer than six months.

Antibiotics are valuable in aged-care homes to treat infections and reduce the elevated risk of complications. However, Noleen Bennett says “Many people are using antibiotics for much longer than is needed to treat an infection, or even using them to prevent infections”.

“This puts them at risk of developing infections that become resistant to antibiotics. As resistant bacteria can spread from person to person, this puts other residents at risk.

“The survey, funded by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, showed that in aged-care facilities, it is often not recorded why an antibiotic is being used, when it was started, when it should be reviewed and when it should be stopped. This information should be kept up-to-date and available to all relevant medical staff and carers,” she says.

With the newly updated Aged Care Quality Standards, Australian aged-care homes now must show how they promote best-practice use of antibiotics.

Noleen Bennett comments that “By participating in and using the results and recommendations from the Aged Care National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey, aged-care facilities can educate staff, and residents and their families about antibiotic use and make changes in how antibiotics are used. This should result in better outcomes for residents.”

Read the full Australian Prescriber article.

Next week (18–24 November) is World Antibiotic Awareness Week which focuses on this important issue of antibiotic resistance. More information can be found on the NPS MedicineWise website.

Spokespeople are available for media interviews.


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Matthew Harris
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