1 in 5 Australians expect antibiotics for coughs and colds: New NPS campaign

Published on April 18, 2012 at 8:53 PM · No Comments

1 in 5 Australians expect their doctor to prescribe antibiotics for themselves and/or their child when they have a cough or cold, new research from NPS has found.

Of the 1013 Australians surveyed nationwide*, 4 in 5 also said they expect a prescription from their GP when they have an ear, nose, throat or chest infection, with more than half (51%) saying they would ask their GP for one. 

Requests for antibiotics to treat their child’s cold or cough were double that of parents who would ask for one themselves (14% vs 6%), with fathers more likely to ask than mothers (22% vs 9%).

The survey also revealed a plethora of misconceptions when it comes to antibiotics with only half of respondents knowing that bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Only 40% knew antibiotics should not be taken for viruses and many (40%) did not know that taking antibiotics when they’re not needed contributes to antibiotic resistance.  More than half did not know resistance increases when you don’t complete the course as directed and in general, the youth audience had less knowledge.

Released to coincide with the launch of a new NPS campaign against antibiotic resistance, NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser says these results indicate people may be thinking about or taking antibiotics even when they don’t really need them.

“Since antibiotics were first used in treatment, they have become one of our most important weapons against bacterial infections.  But over time, because we have been overusing and misusing these medicines, bacteria have built up resistance to antibiotics, meaning infections caused by these bugs are becoming harder and harder to treat,” says Dr Stowasser.

“If we don’t act now to combat the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, we risk returning to an era where an infection from something as a simple as a scratch could cause serious complications, or even death.  In fact, the World Health Organization has labelled antibiotic resistance as being one of the greatest threats to human health today.”

The new NPS campaign encourages all Australians to become antibiotic ‘resistance fighters’ and join the fight against antibiotic resistance. 

“Australians are amongst some of the highest users of antibiotics in the developed world, with around 22 million prescriptions written every year.  If at least 35,000 Australians pledge to join the fight against antibiotic resistance this will help bring our use in line with the average of other OECD countries,” says Dr Stowasser.

NPS has set up a Facebook page — www.facebook.com/NPSMedicinewise — where from Monday 23 April people can pledge to take some simple actions to help fight antibiotic resistance. 

“The first thing an antibiotic resistance fighter does is not expect antibiotics for colds and the flu, as these are caused by viruses which antibiotics cannot treat,” says Dr Stowasser.

“The second pledge an antibiotic resistance fighter makes is to always take antibiotics exactly as directed by their doctor if they are prescribed them, knowing that not doing so contributes to the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

“Finally, an antibiotic resistance fighter always practices good hygiene – such as washing their hands and covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze – to help stop the spread of infection caused by both viruses and bacteria,”  Dr Stowasser concluded.

A variety of resources, tools and information to help consumers learn more about becoming an antibiotic resistance fighter are now available on the NPS website.  For further information, visit www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise/antibiotic_resistance

* Survey of 1,013 people by Research Now for NPS in January 2012. Full survey results available upon request.

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