More than 28,000 Australian GPs will this week receive a letter from NPS MedicineWise showing their recent oral antibiotic prescribing patterns, providing them an important opportunity to reflect on their own prescribing of antibiotics in comparison to that of their peers.
This communication initiative is one of the ways NPS MedicineWise is involved in supporting the global Antibiotic Awareness Week (16-22 November) and will include general information about antibiotic resistance in Australia, as well as confidential, individualised PBS data from the Department of Human Services. The data is mailed out automatically and confidentially to each GP and is not seen by NPS MedicineWise.
While the indication for prescribing (whether for respiratory tract infection, urinary tract infection or another condition) cannot be determined from PBS data, the information can be helpful for GPs who can then consider and reflect on their own prescribing data in regard to the indications for antibiotic therapy for their patients.
NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says that everyone—prescribers included—needs to handle antibiotics with care so these will continue to work when we need them, and this individualised antibiotic prescribing data presents GPs with a powerful opportunity to consider their role in fighting antibiotic resistance.
“This global Antibiotic Awareness Week (16-22 November) health organisations, health professionals and individuals in every region of the world will be looking at how we can use antibiotics responsibly,” says Dr Weekes.
“The issue of antibiotic resistance is not something for the future—it is real, and it is here now in Australia and across the world—and even though this is a community-wide issue, as health professionals it is up to us to take a lead in this area.”
The OECD has reported Australia’s consumption of antibiotics to be higher than the average of 29 included countries. Australia’s antibiotic prescribing rate was the 8th highest and was more than double that of countries prescribing the lowest volumes of antibiotics.
RACGP President Dr Frank Jones says the supply of antibiotic prescribing data to GPs is an important tool in the bid to reduce antibiotic resistance.
“By facilitating GPs’ access to their own confidential prescribing data, NPS MedicineWise is providing the opportunity for them to reflect on their own quality use of medicines with regards to antibiotics,” says Dr Jones.
“This recognises the important and leading role that GPs can play in fighting antibiotic resistance.”
Dr Weekes says that this Antibiotic Awareness Week, NPS MedicineWise is supportive of health professionals in taking on what may be at times challenging conversations with their patients—if their clinical judgement is that antibiotics are not needed.
“We know that patient demand does drive antibiotic prescribing, so it’s important patients feel supported in managing their condition without antibiotics if they’re not necessary,” she says.
Evidence from general practice shows that good communication influences patient satisfaction more than a prescription for an antibiotic.
To help facilitate conversations with patients about management of respiratory tract infections without antibiotics, NPS MedicineWise offers a symptomatic management pad to help communicate why an antibiotic is not needed on this occasion, discuss self-management of symptoms and address the issue of antibiotic resistance.
The symptomatic management pad is available as a writeable, printable PDF form on the NPS MedicineWise website, to download from GP prescribing software (including Medical Director and Best Practice) or to order in hard copy.
A suite of new Antibiotic Awareness Week resources are also available on the NPS MedicineWise website, including health professional and consumer posters to print and display in your practice, a consumer fact sheet about antibiotic resistance to share with patients, and infographics to share on social media. To download the Antibiotic Awareness Week toolkit, and to take the pledge to fight antibiotic resistance, go to www.nps.org.au/aaw.