Pharmacists can have key role in antimicrobial stewardship

new antibiotics: gloved hands holding two antibiotic capsules

All health professionals – including pharmacists – as well as consumers have a responsibility to reduce the dependence of antibiotics in Australia, says PSA.

New research shows Australia continues to lag behind other nations on antimicrobial use in the community and around 50% of patients surveyed with a cold or upper respiratory infection had an antibiotic prescribed when it wasn’t needed, the Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia (AURA) report showed.

Australian health officials also highlighted that the AURA report is an important “wake-up call” to individuals and health professionals to work together to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance.

PSA National President Joe Demarte says pharmacists can play a fundamental role in antimicrobial stewardship in Australia.

“The pharmacy profession in partnership with the Federal Government, other health practitioners and consumers, must make an effective and sustained contribution to a national response to antimicrobial resistance,” Demarte says.

“Advice about the use of antibiotics must be disseminated to consumers, in addition to antibiotic awareness weeks and other time-limited campaigns.”

Demarte says many people suffering from flu or respiratory problems may think a treatment with antibiotics is needed.

“However pharmacists can give the proper counselling for these health problems, ensuring that patients have a good understanding of their illness and realistic expectations of its progression,”  Demarte says.

“Pharmacists regularly assist patients, even when a prescriber has made the appropriate evidence-based decision not to prescribe an antimicrobial. In some cases, patients may require advice on symptomatic treatments.”

He says PSA continues to work closely with the Federal Government to:

  • strengthen consumer awareness initiatives to improve understanding of antimicrobial resistance and the importance of using antibiotics appropriately;
  • strengthen communication and education initiatives for pharmacists in AMR; and
  • encourage continued increases in vaccination rates to prevent infections.

PSA also supports new initiatives that encourage better communication between prescribers, consumers and pharmacists around the intent of delayed prescriptions or repeats for antibiotics.

“There are innovative projects underway, including by the University of Queensland, as part of a program offering advice to a patient to only have a prescription filled at a pharmacy after a few days if symptoms are not settling or become more severe. A sticker will be applied to the prescription labelling it as a delayed prescription,” Demarte says.

“These are perfect opportunities for pharmacists to have a conversation with consumers about antimicrobial resistance.”

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