As a medicines expert, what are you doing to help stem the tide of antimicrobial resistance?

World Antibiotic Awareness Week occurs annually in November, this year running from Monday 12 to Sunday 18 November 2018.

It aims to draw attention to the role of effective use of antibiotics in preventing and containing antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health today, explains NPS MedicineWise.

“We can help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by being part of the solution. There are simple actions individuals can take to help stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections,” says the group.

“We can slow down antibiotic resistance in Australia by only using antibiotics when they are really needed.”

Take home messages about antibiotics to share with patients:

  • Antibiotics don’t work for all infections. Most coughs and colds will get better on their own without antibiotics.
  • Don’t ask for antibiotics for your cold or flu. These common conditions are mostly caused by viruses and antibiotics will have no effect.
  • Don’t share antibiotics with others. This is important because the type of antibiotic may not be targeted to the bacteria causing their particular infection.
  • Use antibiotics wisely. When they are needed, take the prescribed dose and complete the whole course of treatment prescribed by your doctor.
  • Don’t keep leftover antibiotics to use next time you are sick. The leftover antibiotic may not be effective against the bacteria causing the new infection.
  • Understand that it is possible to pass on antibiotic-resistant bacteria to others – friends, family and other people in the community.
  • Prevent the spread of germs by practising good hand hygiene. Washing your hands regularly with soap and running water can help you stay healthy, and can prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

What you can do:

  1. Take the pledge on the NPS MedicineWise website and become a resistance fighter
  2. Take part in the global conversation on social media using the hashtags #AAW2018, #WAAW, #AntibioticResistance and #AMR
  3. Share the above with your patients

PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson says that as medicines experts, pharmacists play a key role in addressing antimicrobial resistance.

“In their interactions with patients, pharmacists can raise awareness about antimicrobial resistance and provide guidance on the use of antibiotics,” says Dr Jackson.

“Australia is one of the world’s highest users of antibiotics in human health, and antibiotic stewardship programs often led by pharmacists have great potential to combat this.

“Pharmacists are often patients’ first port of call for flu or respiratory problems, which gives them the perfect opportunity to start conversations about antimicrobial resistance.

“PSA believes pharmacists should only dispense a repeat prescription for an antibiotic after clarifying clinical appropriateness,” says Dr Jackson.

“Antibiotics vary in their degree of activity against different bacteria. Inappropriate use of antibiotics could result in infection progression, leading to increased patient morbidity and mortality, as well as contributing to antibiotic resistance.

“Requests for repeat prescriptions to be dispensed are commonly made by patients without consultation with their treating doctor, and sometimes well after the time the original prescription was written. If a repeat prescription for an antibiotic is requested to be dispensed, consider the clinical appropriateness of the request with guidance from relevant national and local antimicrobial prescribing guidelines.”

SHPA says pharmacists are “essential” to the success of antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) programs.

As members of the system-wide AMS team hospital pharmacists can:

  • champion and coordinate the activities of the AMS program and assist in implementing activities that promote safe, effective and appropriate use of antimicrobials, and antimicrobial usage audits
  • provide review and feedback at patient and unit level particularly in wards with high antimicrobial usage
  • participate in research associated with AMS and antimicrobial use
  • optimise antimicrobial use by interventions appropriate to local needs, resources and infrastructure
  • provide expert advice and education to hospital staff
  • liaise with other departments to enhance, promote and deliver best practice appropriate use of antibiotics