Complacency among young people about completing courses of antibiotics may come back to bite them if public health predictions about a future without antibiotics hold true. Royal Australian College of General Practitioners WA faculty chair Frank Jones said young people continued to stop antibiotics treatment once they felt better, potentially contributing to the now "critical" issue of 'antibiotic resistance' within the community. "Once a young person feels better, then the impetus to finish the course goes away," Professor Jones said. "Young people naturally perceive their health outcomes to be better than older people. "Patients, politicians and journalists need an understanding of the potential in 25 years' time to [return to] an era when we had no antibacterial agents." Pharmaceutical Society of Western Australia executive officer Michael Garlepp said the link between incomplete courses of antibiotics and the broader public health issue of antibiotics resistance was clear. "It's really this, you can almost picture it, someone fading away, fading away," he said. "Then [treatment] stops and then [the remaining bacteria] perk up again, and they get mutations which result in antibiotic resistance." Professor Jones said getting young people to take antibiotics correctly was not a task GPs could shoulder alone and endorsed an expanded role for pharmacists. Professor Garlepp agreed pharmacists were well-placed to educate patients on the correct use of antibiotics. "[Pharmacists] are the ones who are actually giving the antibiotics," he said. "Education is at the counter all the time." He suggested including a pamphlet on antibiotics resistance with prescriptions in order to make people aware about the bigger issues arising from non-compliance.
Professor Jones added that electronic media and automatic reminders about taking medications could be applied to antibiotics use in the future. Shadow Health Minister Roger Cook said the long-term problem of antibiotics resistance was not on the Barnett Government's radar. Mr Cook said it was important to change community attitudes towards taking medication because if improper antibiotics use continued, Australia would be at a disadvantage when 'super-bugs' reached our shores. "We are essentially starting to fight [these new diseases] with one hand tied behind our back," Mr Cook said. Mr Cook also stressed that state and federal governments need to work together to combat this issue. Health Minister Kim Hames declined to comment on the matter.
Published on Nov 25, 2013