Australian general practitioners are prescribing antibiotics for acute respiratory infections (ARIs) at rates that are four to nine times higher than recommended by national guidelines, a Bond University study finds.
Led by Christopher Del Mar, Professor of Public Health at Bond University, the researchers compared general practice activity for April 2010 to March 2015 (based on data from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health [BEACH] study) with the estimated rates of prescribing recommended by Therapeutic Guidelines.
They found that an estimated average of 5.97 million of acute respiratory infections per year were managed in Australian general practice with at least one antibiotic, equivalent to 230 cases per full-time GP per year.
Antibiotics are not recommended by the national guidelines for acute bronchitis/bronchiolitis or influenza. But GPs are prescribing them in 85 per cent of bronchitis cases and in 11 per cent of flu cases.
Antibiotics were prescribed more frequently than recommended for acute rhinosinusitis, acute bronchitis/bronchiolitis, acute otitis media, and acute pharyngitis/tonsillitis.
“Diagnostic uncertainty – concern by the treating doctor that a serious infection or complications might be missed – is one potential explanation for this finding,” the researchers wrote.
They said that their findings were the first to quantify the overprescribing of antibiotics in Australia.
Antimicrobial drug resistance is a global problem and reducing antibiotic use is the most important clinical response, according to national and international guidelines on antimicrobial stewardship.
“The potential for reducing rates of antibiotic prescription and to thereby reduce rates of antibiotic-related harms, particularly bacterial resistance, is … substantial,” Professor Del Mar and his colleagues concluded.
“Our data provide the basis for setting absolute targets for reducing antibiotic prescribing in Australian general practice.”
Read more about the study’s findings here. Story credit: Bond University newsroom.
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