- Australia has one of the highest levels of antibiotic consumption in the developed world, according to a new report.
- It has been discovered that some bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to common drugs.
- In serious cases when antibiotics do not work, patients have no other treatment options.
Patients have been warned to stop stocking up on antibiotics and think twice about prescriptions for minor ailments amid concerns that one of the most serious health challenges is getting worse.
They become dangerous bacteria that cause golden staphylococcus, gastro and gonorrhea according to a new report from the Australian Health Care Safety and Quality Commission released on Thursday.
In serious cases when antibiotics do not work, patients have no other treatment options.
Prescription drug rates fell by 25 percent at their peak but there was a worrying 10 percent rise in prescriptions in 2022, the report showed.
Australia was found to have one of the highest levels of antibiotic consumption in the developed world, with one in three people dispensing at least one drug last year.
Health experts are concerned and are calling for urgent action to curb the trend before it is too late.
The commission’s senior medical adviser, Professor John Turnidge, said Australia still had an opportunity to address what he described as “one of the most serious health challenges of our time”.
He said doctors, other health care professionals and patients have a role to play in making the nation “smarter” about prescribing drugs.
“Let’s all think twice before we automatically prescribe and use antibiotics – or take them ‘just in case,'” Turnidge said.
“If we don’t, in the future we may not be able to perform medical procedures such as organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery.”
“It’s a bleak future none of us want to think about.”
Antibiotic resistance could prevent us from performing some medical procedures, the expert warned. credit: E+
The World Health Organization estimates that antimicrobial resistance could lead to 10 million deaths by 2050.
A study published in the highly respected medical journal The Lancet in 2022 found it already contributes to hundreds of deaths in Australia each year.
Infectious disease expert and adviser to the commission, Professor Peter Collignon, reminded patients that antibiotics cannot help treat viruses such as colds or flu and that about 5 percent of people suffer from side effects of the drugs.
“For a serious infection like meningitis, pneumonia or sepsis, you will need antibiotics to stay alive and your doctor will help you navigate this,” Collignon said.
“However, for many people dealing with minor illnesses, this is not the case.”
Turnidge also said there is evidence that antimicrobial use can contribute to long-term chronic diseases later in life.
“Antibiotics can save your life, so we should save them for treating life-threatening conditions, but we must not forget that they can also cause significant harm.”
There was a worrying 10 percent increase in antibiotic prescriptions in 2022. Source: AAP / Julien Behal/PA/Alamy
The decline in usage in 2020 and 2021 is attributed to new regulations and distancing rules that led to a drop in respiratory infections.
The report recommended that community health workers and older workers follow guidelines on when it is appropriate to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections, skin infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory infections.
It said hospitals should pay more attention to how drugs are used to prevent infections in surgical patients, manage bugs that are already known to be resistant and watch for resistance to antifungal drugs.