18/11/2015 10:03 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

People Still Think Antibiotics Will Make A Cold And Flu Pass More Quickly


Don't pressure your doctor into giving you unnecessary antibiotics -- that's the recommendation from research showing some Australians still wrongly believe antibiotics can treat cold and flu.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Frank Jones told The Huffington Post Australia GPs were regularly asked to prescribe antibiotics.

"I heard a story just last week about a doctor being berated in the car park from someone who didn't get antibiotics prescribed," Jones told HuffPost Australia.

"When people request antibiotics, sometimes that conversation can be difficult -- patients can get quite aggressive about it or talk about anecdotal evidence about someone they know who had antibiotics and got better more quickly.

"It becomes the responsibility of the doctor to explain the evidence-based approach that antibiotics do not help to overcome viruses."

A new study by independent, not-for-profit organisation NPS Medicine Wise found more than one in four Australians thought antibiotics could speed up cold and flu recovery and one in 10 asked their doctor to prescribe them.

To set the record straight, antibiotics cannot kill viruses responsible for cold and flu, but by prescribing them when they're not needed, it gives bacteria like golden staph and gonorrhoea resistance that is already contributing to some strains spreading out of control.

The study found that while the number of people asking for antibiotics has gone down four percent since last year, chief executive Lynn Weekes said the community needed to know it wasn't acceptable to pressure doctors to prescribe antibiotics.

“Antibiotics don’t work at all on viruses like those that cause colds and flu and taking antibiotics when they’re not effective can contribute to antibiotic resistance, meaning they may not work for you when you need them in the future," Weekes said.

“For individuals in the community it is important not to pressure your doctor for antibiotics when you have a cold or flu, where antibiotics are not effective and can be harmful.”

"It has become entrenched in our society's thinking that antibiotics are an infinite resource, but unless we dramatically reduce antibiotic prescribing when they're not needed, we are looking to a future where they may no longer work when they are really needed.”

Antibiotics are losing their power from NPS MedicineWise on Vimeo.

The study of 2,581 Australians over the age of 16 also found 75 percent of people were aware that taking antibiotics for colds and flu would contribute to antibiotics becoming less effective in the future, 67 percent knew it put them at personal risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A new review into antibiotic over prescription for respiratory problems, meanwhile, found one solution was having a simple conversation.

The review, for independent healthcare evidence database Cochrane Library, found that when doctors and patients were encouraged to discuss whether antibiotics were needed, fewer were prescribed.

A conversation between doctors and patients may reduce overprescription of antibiotics.

The Cochrane Library's David Tovey said the results had society wide implications.

“This Cochrane Review addresses one of the most urgent global health challenges we face," Tovey said.

"Overuse of antibiotics has major consequences for individual patients and society more generally.

"Some clinicians believe that the pressure to prescribe antibiotics comes from the patients, but this review shows that shared decision making may reduce usage.”

Antibiotic over prescription isn't just a problem among people, the Australian Veterinary Association and Animal Medicines Australia announced this week they were joining forces to develop best-practice guidelines for livestock and horses.

Animal Medicines Australia chief executive Duncan Bremner said resistance could also breed in animals.

“There are already Australian evidence-based guidelines for dogs and cats -- with this project kicking off in 2016, we will now also have guidelines for horses, sheep, pigs, poultry and cattle,” Mr Bremner said.

Antibiotic Awareness Week starts today and you can learn five things you can do to minimise antibiotic resistance here.