Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist August 2014 Contents ‘Another part of modern healthcare
is that we rely upon these medicines
to protect people when they are
most vulnerable. So, again, what does
‘It means that when people develop
cancer and are on chemotherapy and
become immuno compromised, they are
at much higher risk for complications
and infections. When babies are born
prematurely, they are in the same
situation. When we have children who
are malnourished, they are at much
higher risk for infections. When we have
people coming in for surgery... it may
be elective surgery such as getting joints
replaced or heart surgery or it may be
as the result of car accidents or wounds
and things like that, but again we
depend on antimicrobial drugs to help
people to get through those things.
‘ When we have people with common
illnesses like severe diabetes or are on
dialysis from renal failure, these people
are at much higher risk for infections
and we rely upon these medicines to
protect them. That is what it means
when we say that it really begins to get
at our ability to protect people when
they are most vulnerable,’ he said.
Dr Carmem Pessoa, the team lead on
antimicrobial resistance in the report
said that it included discussion about
the limitations of the available data and
also the limitations of the results.
‘One of the things that is a clear
implication of this limitation with the
data is the need for a coordinated
and harmonised way to survey and to
monitor the trends of antimicrobial
resistance worldwide and in this regard
WHO is taking actions to build a global
surveillance system exactly to better
monitor this situation in the entire
world,’ she said.
The Australian Government is very
aware of the issue. A report prepared for
the Office of the Chief Scientist, Meeting
the threat of antibiotic resistance: Building
a new frontline defence, and released in
July 2013, was blunt in its assessment.
The Chief Scientist, Professor Ian
Chubb, said: ‘Antibiotic resistance has
the potential to become one of the
world’s biggest public health challenges,
requiring a serious response from
our scientists, our industries and the
community at large.
‘ There is now a genuine threat of
humanity returning to an era where
mortality due to common infections
The paper said that the problem has
been further exacerbated by a collapse
of the antibiotic pipeline.
Australian Pharmacist August 2014 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
“when these drugs were first introduced,
resistance was virtually zero. Today,
there are countries in many parts of
the world where this treatment is now
ineffective in more than half of patients.”
Only take as needed
Commenting on the WHO report, NPS
MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes said
that while it highlights that antibiotics
are becoming less effective in treating
many common infections, there are
practical steps that all Australians can
follow to help ease the growing burden
of antibiotic resistant infections.
‘Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem
in Australia and throughout our region,
and we continue to overuse antibiotics
by using them to treat viruses where they
have no effect,’ Dr Weekes said.
‘Globally we rank as a very high user of
antibiotics with the equivalent of one
prescription written each year for every
man, woman and child in Australia.
As we enter our cold and flu season
it’s important that people understand
that antibiotics do not treat viruses.
Antibiotics are only useful for treating
In 2012, NPS MedicineWise launched a
five-year campaign to address antibiotic
resistance. This involves education for
health professionals about appropriate
prescribing and stewardship of these
critical medicines, and helping Australians
to understand what they can do to prevent
the spread of antibiotic resistance.
NPS MedicineWise aims to reduce
antibiotic prescribing by 25% over this
period which would bring Australia into
line with the OECD average.
Some of the simple steps people can
Understanding most people don’t
need antibiotics for colds and flu
because they are caused by viruses
Telling your doctor you only want an
antibiotic if it is really necessary
Taking the right dose of your
antibiotic at the right time, as
prescribed by your doctor
Taking your antibiotics for as long as
your doctor tells you to
Practising good hygiene, such as
regular hand washing and covering
your mouth when sneezing or
coughing, to avoid infections and
prevent them from spreading.
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