Australian community-based intervention program to successfully reduce antibiotics use for colds and flu

The South Australian Health Department is leading a community-based intervention program to successfully reduce antibiotics use for colds and flu.

The results of the program are published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Health Department Pharmaceutical Policies and Programs Director Bill Dollman says the program aims to reduce antibiotic prescribing for upper respiratory tract infections through education programs for GPs and patients.

The intervention program was initially carried out on the Fleurieu Peninsula and has since been expanded across the State, with more than 280,000 pamphlets distributed to parents of all children in Reception to Year 2 in public and private schools, general practitioners and pharmacists. In 2003 the information was also made available to pre-school and childcare centres.

"Antibiotics are among the most valuable medicines known," Mr Dollman says. "However, as a society we use them far too frequently when they are not required. This helps antibiotic resistant bacteria to flourish within our community."

Mr Dollman says the intervention program educates people that antibiotics have no effect on viral infections that cause flu and colds, and minimal benefits for self-limiting conditions such as sore throats.

"Recovery from viral infections will generally happen within the same number of days, with or without antibiotics," he says.

"The intervention program tells people what they can do to get well when antibiotics are not required. These things include getting plenty of rest, drinking seven to eight glasses of water each day, and avoiding cigarettes or smoky environments."

Mr Dollman says the Fleurieu Peninsula trial reduced dispensing of unnecessary antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections.

"The main outcome measure was total dispensing data from local pharmacies for the months of June to October in 2000 and 2001 covering the six antibiotics considered most likely to be used for upper respiratory tract infections," he says.

"The dispensing of the six antibiotics reduced by 32 per cent overall, from 77.1 to 52.9 defined daily doses per 1000 population per day, with statistically significant reductions in the range of 31 per cent to 70 per cent for four of the antibiotics."

An evaluation of the statewide program is planned for later this year.

http://www.health.sa.gov.au/

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