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Calls for urgent action to help doctors reduce prescribing antibiotics

Photo: Dire warning on antibiotic resistance
Without intervention to reduce overprescription of antibiotics by GPs, deaths from currently treatable infections will overtake all cancer deaths by 2050.

An estimated 1600 people in Australia die directly from antibiotic resistance every year, leading to calls for urgent action to help doctors reduce prescribing rates.

Without greater surveillance and intervention to reduce overprescription of antibiotics by GPs, deaths from currently treatable infections will overtake all cancer deaths by 2050, a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia warns.

The second consequence of the antibiotic resistance crisis is the risk it will pose to now routine medical care like surgery, the report says.
"Without reliable antibiotic prophylaxis (treatment given to prevent disease), procedures such as chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, much major surgery (such as joint replacement) and invasive diagnostic procedures (eg, cardiac catheterisation) will become too dangerous to perform," Professor Christopher B Del Mar, an academic GP at Bond University said.

The report proposes a range of strategies and calls for a national strategy to avert such dire consequences.

"This crisis is not directly obvious to GPs working in the community. Yet, GPs contribute to most of the antibiotic tonnage consumed by humans in Australia -- exact data are not available in Australia, but in Denmark and Sweden, 90 per cent of antibiotics for human use are prescribed outside hospitals, and 65 per cent are prescribed by GPs," the study said.

Antibiotics are mostly prescribed for acute respiratory infections, "for which they provide only minor benefits", the report said.

Among the interventions suggested is having electronic health records default to "no repeats" and tighter restrictions on several antibiotics earmarked for special conservation

"Strategies in Australia will require appropriate resources and implementation support for employing multiple modalities and a commitment for a sustained effort," the authors concluded.

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