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Antibiotic use falls dramatically in New Zealand

Media release

Antibiotic use falls dramatically in New Zealand says PHARMAC

The amount of antibiotics taken by New Zealanders appears to be dropping steeply -- showing a trend to curb overuse of the drugs which can lead to antibiotic resistance.

Figures just released by PHARMAC to mark the start of a special campaign to encourage wise use of the drugs, show an 11 percent drop in use.

The Wise Use of Antibiotics campaign is being organised by 26 independent doctor groups with the support of PHARMAC and the Royal New Zealand College of GPs.

PHARMAC Medical Director Dr Peter Moodie, says the figures are looking very good.

“We knew there had been a drop but the full extent has only just been revealed. This is very encouraging as the drop in usage began when education campaigns kicked off.”

“New Zealand doctors, and of course New Zealanders themselves, are to be very sincerely congratulated in taking this serious message to heart.”

He says New Zealand like many other similar countries had been very concerned about antibiotic resistance.

“To be able to achieve a drop of eleven percent over two years is an extremely good result.”

Earlier this year the Canadian Health Authorities got headlines with their announcement that they could verify a 4% decline in prescriptions written for antibiotics.

“That is a great result, but ours look even better,” says Peter Moodie.

He says the figures show that antibiotic use was increasing at about 7 percent per year.

“What we see now is that since 1998, when the campaign began, there have been nearly half a million fewer dispensings than there were at the peak time.”

Dr Moodie says the other very good news is the change in prescribing from broad spectrum antibiotics to narrow spectrum antibiotics.

“The broad spectrum antibiotics are often unnecessary and can cause side effects such as diarrhoea and thrush. With the narrow spectrum antibiotics we are honing in on where the problem lies.”

Dr Moodie says there is no room for complacency.

“On average, as a nation, the number of dispensing is still high at nearly 3,343,000 and that works out to each of us taking one course of antibiotics a year. That is still an awful lot of drugs.”

He says when we see outbreaks of the drug resistant superbug, as Capital Coast Health is currently battling, it is a reminder to us that while the drugs are useful, they must be used wisely.

“We must all be clear that antibiotics will only help bacterial infections and not viral illnesses.”

For further information contact Dr. Peter Moodie (Ph: 025 429 212 or Ph: 021 622249)

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