Many countries have a national antimicrobial resistance strategy. In Australia, primary care is especially important because this setting encompasses a high proportion of antibiotic use. While antibiotic use decreased during the 1990s, it began to increase again in the mid-2000s. In response to this, in 2009 NPS MedicineWise implemented a series of nationwide educational interventions for consumers, family physicians (general practitioners), and community pharmacies that aimed to reduce excessive antibiotic use.
For consumers a social marketing approach was used, including strategies that leveraged collectivism, nudge theory, celebrity endorsement, and co-creation. Channels included social, print, radio, and other media as well as practice waiting rooms and pharmacies. For health professionals, interventions included face-to-face education, audits, comparative prescribing feedback, case studies, and point-of-care materials. Surveys of consumers and family physicians were conducted periodically to evaluate changes in knowledge and behavior. National Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme claims data were analyzed using a Bayesian structural time-series model to estimate the cumulative effect of interventions by comparing the observed and expected monthly dispensing volumes if the interventions had not occurred.
The consumer survey results indicated that more people were aware of antibiotic resistance (seventy-four percent in 2017 versus seventy percent in 2014), with the minority requesting or expecting antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) (twenty-two percent in 2017). People underestimated the usual duration of symptoms for URTIs and were more inclined to expect antibiotics beyond that timeframe. Compared with non-participants, family physicians who participated in the program reported more frequent discussions about hand hygiene (ninety percent versus eighty-two percent) and proper use of antibiotics with patients (ninety-five percent versus eighty-eight percent). Between 2009 and 2015 there was an estimated fourteen percent reduction in prescriptions dispensed to concessional patients for antibiotics commonly prescribed for URTIs.
Family physicians and consumers have responded positively to national programs. Sustaining and building on these improvements will require continued education and further innovation.