Antibiotic Resistance: Let’s Stop the Blame Game

  • Parents Only

By: ellaslist

We know that Australians take a lot of antibiotics compared to many other countries. Perhaps it’s because we’ve visited the GP expecting a script or we’ve been prescribed antibiotics ‘just in case’. Whatever the reason, we all need to take responsibility for the urgent issue of antibiotic resistance. While it’s easy to blame doctors for overprescribing antibiotics, we can’t throw our hands helplessly in the air – it’s 2018, the era of being accountable. We have access to more information than ever, and by equipping ourselves with knowledge about antibiotic resistance, we can be empowered to make more informed choices about our own health.

According to NPS MedicineWise this World Antibiotic Awareness Week (12-18 November) unrealistic expectations about antibiotics are contributing to the global health threat of antibiotic resistance.

NPS MedicineWise medical adviser and GP Dr Jeannie Yoo says these expectations are contributing to the overuse, and misuse, of antibiotics—and the more antibiotics are misused, the greater the problem of antibiotic resistance.

More than 30 million antibiotic prescriptions are dispensed in Australia each year. In 2015 around 45% of Australians were prescribed at least one course of antibiotics—many of these unnecessary.

“Antibiotics have been a wonder drug since their discovery in the late 1920s, and have saved countless lives,” said Dr Yoo.

“However, this precious resource is also a limited one. The more antibiotics are misused and overused, the less effective they become—and the less we are able to treat very serious bacterial infections.

“Rather than place the blame with any individual or group, it’s important to acknowledge that slowing the march of antibiotic resistance is a shared responsibility amongst both consumers and health professionals,” she said.

Despite antibiotics not being effective against common coughs, colds and flu, antibiotics are being prescribed for these conditions at up to nine times the recommended rate.

NPS MedicineWise consumer surveys have also shown there’s a discrepancy between how long a parent expects their child to be sick when they have an upper respiratory tract infection versus the average duration of the symptoms.

“People, and especially parents, can underestimate how long a typical upper respiratory tract infection like a cold or earache can last—but providing you or your child are otherwise well and improving, antibiotics generally aren’t needed to treat these conditions,” said Dr Yoo.

“For GPs, understanding people’s motives in seeking medical care and their expectation of being prescribed antibiotics is an important basis for an open and reassuring conversation.

“This World Antibiotic Awareness Week, we’re urging people who do seek medical care for their illness to go to their health professional with an open mind, without the expectation that you will necessarily need antibiotics,” she said.

Of course, there will be times when we need antibiotics in our lives, such as after a caesarean, or to treat complications of cancer therapy, so it’s important to preserve antibiotics for times when they are really needed. 

With this knowledge, the next time we see our GP when we’re unwell, we can feel empowered to start a conversation about whether or not we really need antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a community problem, so let’s stop the blame game and accept that we’re all in this together.

This World Antibiotic Awareness Week, NPS MedicineWise is working with health professionals and consumers to better inform all Australians, with the ultimate aim of reducing inappropriate antibiotic prescribing and helping stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.  To find out more go to