Updating the label


Pharmacists will be attaching new labels, with updated advice, to antibiotic packaging from early next year

An article in the latest edition of Australian Prescriber is reminding pharmacists of changes to the advice given on antibiotic labels.

In consultation with other organisations, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has revised the cautionary advisory label used by pharmacists for antibiotics.

It will now state, ‘Take for the number of days advised by your prescriber.

The previous label had advised patients to continue taking the antibiotics until they are all finished, in line with the approved product information.

“However, this advice may have contributed to the excessive use of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance,” the article advised.

“There is now awareness that the required duration of treatment may need a smaller quantity of antibiotic than the pack that is supplied to the patient.”

As a consequence of this change there are several important messages for prescribers and pharmacists:

  • Prescribers should include the expected duration of therapy on the prescription and communicate the duration of therapy to the patient at the time of prescribing.
  • Including a repeat for an antibiotic on the prescription by default is generally not appropriate.
  • Pharmacists should confirm that the patient understands the prescribed duration of therapy. If the duration of therapy is not communicated on the prescription, and the patient does not know, the pharmacist should contact the prescriber to confirm the duration of therapy.
  • Pharmacists should not dispense a repeat prescription for an antibiotic without first clarifying clinical appropriateness.
  • Prescribers and pharmacists should make patients aware that the advice to take the antibiotics
  • Patients should be advised to take any ‘leftover’ antibiotics back to the pharmacy for disposal.

The revised label will be published in the next edition of the Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary (APF25) due for release January 2021, PSA says.

Associate Professor Chris Freeman, PSA national president, said the revised label is a change to the previous recommendations and is the result of comprehensive stakeholder consultation.

“This is one of a multitude of actions to help combat bacterial resistance to antibiotics,” he said.

“Taking antibiotics for longer than necessary does not improve outcomes and increases the risk of acquiring resistant organisms.

“As the revised CAL D presents a change in behaviour for patients, pharmacists need to work with patients on the appropriate duration of treatment for antibiotics.

“Pharmacists should confirm that patients are aware of treatment duration and if a patient is not aware, or it is not specified on the prescription, the pharmacist should consult with the prescriber to confirm the intended duration.

Under the new guidance, patients should stop taking the antibiotic when the prescribed duration of treatment is complete and any unused antibiotics should be returned to the pharmacy for disposal.

Pharmacists are also reminded to discuss with patients the importance of contacting the prescriber if their symptoms worsen or do not improve in the timeframe advised.

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