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Antibiotic prescribing continues downward trend

Media Release

Antibiotic prescribing continues downward trend

PHARMAC has observed an approximate 16% drop in antibiotic prescribing over the past five years – but says people need to remain vigilant.

The announcement coincides with today’s launch of the Wise Use of Antibiotics Campaign. The annual campaign aims to encourage people to use antibiotics only when they are needed, so they retain their effectiveness.

Spearheaded by PHARMAC, the campaign also has the support of Plunket, independent doctor groups, the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, and the Pharmaceutical Society.

PHARMAC Medical Director Dr Peter Moodie says doctors and patients should be congratulated for the drop in prescribing levels.

Dr Peter Moodie says the results suggest that fewer people are now expecting antibiotics for a cold or the flu, which are viral infections.

“Antibiotics are effective against infections caused by bacteria, however they are not a cure-all and won’t work to treat viral infections such as colds and the flu. The reality is if they are overused, the risk of resistance increases. It is vital that antibiotics retain their effectiveness for when they are needed for generations to come.”

Dr Peter Moodie says it is now important antibiotic prescribing doesn’t start to increase unnecessarily, as antibiotic resistance continues to be a concern internationally.

“New Zealand is not alone in its battle against the misuse of antibiotics. We’ve seen good results so far, but we don’t want to become complacent. Put simply if we don’t continue the good work we may find in the future we are left with fewer effective antibiotics”.

He says it is very important for people to consult their doctor if they are in any doubt about whether they need an antibiotic or not, as doctors are trained to tell the difference between a bacteria and a virus.

“Understandably people who are suffering from winter ills are often keen to get a prescription for antibiotics, however the reality is it won’t cure a cold or flu. In fact it will end up doing more harm than good as it will make antibiotics less effective when they are needed and antibiotics can cause unpleasant side effects.”

He says the best remedy to counter colds and the flu is old-fashioned advice such as plenty of fluids and rest.

The Wise Use of Antibiotics Campaign is running throughout the winter months, and poster and brochures are on display in doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and Plunket centres around the country.


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