8 Alarming facts about antibiotic prescribing in Australia

16 June 2016

A milestone report on antimicrobial resistance, which includes plenty of previously unpublished data, has been released by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. It shows an alarming picture of over-prescribing of antimicrobial agents - a practice known to lead to emergence of antibiotic resistant superbugs.

Here are eight things to note:

  1. In 2014 nearly half the Australian population (46%) was prescribed at least one antimicrobial medicine (that's antibiotics, antifungals and antiviral medicines).
  2. The rate of antimicrobial prescriptions in GP consultations remained constant between 2009 and 2014. 
  3. More than half of patients recorded as having colds or flu and receiving an antibiotic had no need for one.
  4. The antibiotic prescribing rate for acute tonsillitis, sinusits, otitis media (middle ear infections) and bronchitis massively exceeds the acceptable rate based on guidelines - e.g. 90% of patients receive an antibiotic for bronchitis when the acceptable rate is no more than 30%.
  5. One in five prescriptions in residential aged care is prescribed for residents with no sign of infection.
  6. In 2014, on any given day in an Australian hospital,  38.4% of patients were given an antimicrobial and of those nearly one quarter were inappropriate
  7. In 2014, 40% of antibiotics given as prevention before surgery in hospital was inappropriate due to long duration, incorrect dose or frequency.
  8. Australian hospitals have the highest rate in the world of resistance to the antibiotic vancomycin in Enterococcus faecium, a bacteria which can be pathogenic and cause meningitis and endocarditis.
Last Reviewed: 16 June 2016
Reproduced with kind permission from Medical Observer.

References

Rada Rouse

Rada Rouse

Rada is an award-winning medical journalist and a former president of the Australasian Medical Writers Association.