Australian government to crack down on antibiotic overuse in humans and animals

The Australian government will seek to curb Australia’s overprescription and overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals as part of a national plan aimed at preventing potentially deadly diseases becoming resistant to treatment.

Launching Australia’s first strategy for tackling antibiotic resistance on Tuesday, the health minister, Sussan Ley, said more than 29m prescriptions for antibiotics were subsidised by the government in 2013, with the drugs reaching 45% of the population.

It made Australia’s consumption of antibiotics among the highest in the world, she said. Despite this, Australia has never had a national strategy for tackling antimicrobial resistance until now.

“The over- and misuse of antibiotics has been identified as a significant contributor to the emergence of resistant bacteria,” Ley said.

“Antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines are a precious resource and this strategy is not about removing access, but about providing guidance to use them in the safest and most effective way.”

Ley said 65% of Australians believed antibiotics would help them recover from a cold or flu virus, despite the drugs only being useful to treat bacterial infections.

Results from an Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care study, released in November, found more than 30% of antibiotic prescriptions in 2013 were inappropriate.

The national strategy also said there was increasing evidence that antibiotic use in agriculture was contributing to resistance rates. However, the strategy acknowledged there was also a lack of monitoring and data in this area.

Ensuring nationally consistent prescription guidelines were developed and followed in human and animal healthcare would be essential, the strategy said.

But Professor Allen Cheng, the director of the infection prevention project at Alfred Health, described the strategy as “long overdue”.

Despite a government joint committee releasing a report on tackling antibiotic resistance in 1999, successive governments had failed to release a comprehensive strategy, he said.

“This is a long overdue statement of policy that recognises the threat that antimicrobial resistance poses to health in Australia,” Cheng said.

Source The Guardian, 2nd June 2015

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