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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.
While medicines and medical tests are developed in a controlled clinical trial environment, postmarketing surveillance in the real world can be challenging. MedicineInsight—a database of longitudinal patient-level clinical information from primary care practices in Australia—is a novel program that collects primary care data to improve postmarketing surveillance at a national level.
MedicineInsight collects de-identified clinical information from primary care practice information systems using data extraction tools. MedicineInsight currently includes 3.6 million regular patients of 3,300 family physicians (general practitioners) from 650 primary care practices across Australia. MedicineInsight data include longitudinal clinical information on diagnosis and medicines (dose, strength, route of administration, medication switches over time, adverse events, and allergies), and pathology testing data. A series of observational studies was developed for postmarketing surveillance of management of a range of health priorities including type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, and antibiotics use.
Forty-four percent of patients with T2DM in the MedicineInsight database did not have a recorded hemoglobin A1c result and thirty-one percent did not have a recorded blood pressure reading in the previous 6 months. While guidelines recommend a stepwise approach to the initiation of COPD therapy, forty-nine percent of patients with COPD (with or without asthma) were prescribed dual therapy at initiation and a small number (4.5 percent) were prescribed triple therapy. Between 2011 and 2015, the annual rate of antidepressant prescribing per 1,000 family physician encounters increased by eight percent. High volumes of antibiotics were prescribed for respiratory tract infections in Australian primary care, notwithstanding guideline recommendations that antibiotics are not recommended in most cases.
Large scale, real-world clinical data from primary care practices can play an important role in postmarketing surveillance at a national level.
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