Swedish success in reducing antibiotic use
Experts say Australia can learn an important lesson from the Swedish experience with antibiotics: only prescribe them when absolutely necessary.
Antibiotic use rose in Sweden during the 1980s as it did in many countries including Australia. Then in 1995 a Swedish Strategic Programme Against Antibiotic Resistance (STRAMA) was formed leading to dramatic reductions in antibiotic use.
Between 1992 and 2016, the number of antibiotics prescriptions decreased by 43 per cent overall. Among children under four, antibiotic prescriptions fell by 73 per cent.
Levels of antibiotic use in Sweden are now among the lowest of all OECD countries, both in humans and animals. Australia is among the highest users of antibiotics.
Researchers at Bond University, writing in the online journal The Conversation, outline several Swedish initiatives that could reverse antibiotic resistance in Australia including:
- Using an “audit and feedback” to give GPs a summary of their antibiotic prescribing rates over a specified period of time
- Strengthening restricted access to specific antibiotics
- Stop default repeat prescriptions which leave patients believing another course of antibiotics is needed when this is not always the case
- Delaying prescribing – a GP provides a prescription during the consultation, but advises the patient to see if the symptoms will resolve first before using it.
The researchers say it is important to change public attitudes around antibiotic use.
“It’s important to communicate the negative effects of the unnecessary use of antibiotics and the risk of antibiotic resistance for the individual as well as the community.
“Continuous awareness campaigns are essential to keep the public tuned into the issue”.