Australians are some of the biggest consumers of antibiotics in the world

Getty/Joe Raedle

New research has found Australia’s consumption of antibiotics is among the highest in the world.

In 2013 more than 29 million prescriptions for antibiotics were supplied under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation PBS to over 10 million patients — that’s 45% of all Australians.

On top of that, 65% of Australians believe antibiotics will help them recover from a cold or flu and nearly 60% of GPs would prescribe antibiotics to meet patient demands.

The shocking statistics have prompted the federal government to introduce Australia’s first national strategy to reduce the risk of the population developing antibiotic resistance.

If the effectiveness of antibiotics decreases due to a built up resistance in a group of people, the implications on the health sector could be disastrous.

When an antimicrobial resistance occurs bacteria and viruses become resistant to the medicines used to treat the infections they cause.

Health minister Sussan Ley said: “The over and misuse of antibiotics has been identified as a significant contributor to the emergence of resistant bacteria… and this strategy will guide how we tackle it as a nation—domestically, as well as at the regional and global levels.”

Minister for agriculture Barnaby Joyce said the strategy would also guide antibiotic use in animal health and agricultural productivity.

Not-for-profit organisation NPS Medicine Wise has been a leader in the push to educate both GPs and consumers about the dangers of antibiotic overuse in recent years.

It believes the problem starts with doctors prescribing the medicine.

“Our research suggests that some GPs don’t believe their individual prescribing makes a difference to antibiotic resistance, however antibiotic prescribing in primary care is contributing to the problem,” NPS chief executive Dr Lynn Weekes told the ABC.

“Every GP can take action to help reduce antibiotic resistance.”

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