Millions to tackle antimicrobial resistance “very welcome”


NPS MedicineWise says the announcement of additional funding is much needed considering antibiotic prescribing rates in some areas of practice remain particularly high

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the Federal government will invest $5.9 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) into tackling the threat of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses or parasites becoming resistant to standard medical treatments.

“Australia has one of the highest rates of antibiotic use in the world and rates of resistance to some common antibiotics are increasing globally,” warns Minister Hunt.

“Infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat, leaving healthcare professionals with limited – or in some instances zero – treatment options.

“Commercial returns on the discovery and development of new antibiotics is relatively low, so it is an area of research that doesn’t attract sufficient private sector investment,” he explains.

Dr Jonathan Dartnell, Clinical Governance & Program Development Manager, Program & Product Development at NPS MedicineWise says the additional funding is “very welcome”.

“Our experience and international experience shows that the challenge of addressing the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance requires a long-term commitment across different sectors to achieve sustained and significant improvements,” Dr Dartnell tells AJP.

“A large proportion of antibiotic use in Australia is in primary care and therefore we need to ensure proportionate efforts are directed to support antimicrobial stewardship in primary care.”

He points out that NPS MedicineWise has implemented educational programs over several years to support GPs and community pharmacists in antimicrobial stewardship.

“We have also implemented community awareness and education campaigns during the cold and flu season. As a result of this work we have seen improvements in consumer understanding as well as reductions in rates of antibiotic prescribing.

“Yet, rates of antibiotic prescribing in some areas of practice, especially for upper respiratory infections remain high.”

Minister Hunt says the antimicrobial research will include a focus on knowledge gaps in relation to the development and spread of resistance; and the development of new technologies, therapies, policies and approaches to prevent, detect and respond to resistance.

Dr Dartnell says some questions that might be addressed with this funding include:

  1. What are acceptable rates of antibiotic prescribing for different respiratory tract infections in different settings?
  2. Can we establish, using real world data, an effective means to monitor the benefits and harms of using and not using antibiotics for different upper respiratory tract infections? (As we reduce rates of antibiotic prescribing, GPs need to be assured that the consequence is not an increase in rates of serious complications from infections.)
  3. In some areas of antimicrobial stewardship in primary care, Australia has performed very well. For example, using PBS restriction criteria, Australia has managed to effectively control the rates of fluoroquinolone prescribing, and consequently, rates of fluoroquinolone resistance have remained relatively low. What would happen if we applied new levels of restriction to other more commonly used antibiotics?
  4. How can we reduce the diagnostic uncertainty faced by GPs? Is it possible to introduce near-patient testing to reduce some of this uncertainty?

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