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Overuse of antibiotic prescribing in primary care is becoming increasingly problematic

How often have you heard family members or friends saying they need to go to the doctor to get some antibiotics for a cough, cold, flu, rash, or even some ear infections? Unfortunately, many of these conditions don’t require antibiotics as shown in the table below. Antibiotics ONLY treat certain infections caused by bacteria (Strep throat, Whooping cough, Urinary tract infections) or treat life-threatening conditions caused by bacteria, such as sepsis, which is the body’s extreme response to infection.

Antibiotic use or misuse is collectively known as Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS). Since the discovery of Penicillin, antibiotics have transformed how we treat disease. Prior to its discovery, life expectancy was low, and an infected scratch could lead to death. Today antibiotics have saved millions of lives and their use continues to be necessary. Unfortunately, taking antibiotics when they’re not needed won’t help you, and their side effects can still cause harm. Excessive use of antibiotics, either prescribed or in agricultural use is leading to antibiotic resistance where common antibiotics are no longer having the desired effect. As Primary Practices are one of the leading prescribers of antibiotics, Kardinia Health is supporting a project led by Prof Eugene Athan, an infectious disease expert at Barwon Health. Together we embarked on an educational program to limit unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions and assess their appropriateness. What we found was that the implementation of a simple education program for GPs led to significantly improved antibiotic prescribing. These findings indicate the important role of AMS and continued antimicrobial education within general practice. Since the initial study, we’ve also identified further areas for improvement including patient education to build upon our early successes. So if your GP doesn’t prescribe you antibiotics, they are doing so based on sound clinical knowledge and helping combat the excessive overuse of antibiotics.