Antibiotic Awareness Week

By St Vincent’s Antibiotic Specialist Pharmacist Yves Lorenzo

Antibiotic Awareness Week is about raising community and professional awareness of the increasing problems with antibiotic resistance and how inappropriate antibiotic use contributes to this. Some studies have predicted that by 2050, 10 million people per year could die of untreatable infections if nothing is done to halt the current trends.

Most patients will be prescribed an antibiotic at some point of their hospital admission. Statistics around the world show that up to 50% of antibiotics in hospital are inappropriately prescribed – e.g. the course is prescribed for too long or a better type of antibiotic could be used. Here at St V’s we have dedicated teams that help doctors and surgeons around-the-clock prescribe the antibiotics appropriately.

Antibiotic Specialist Pharmacist Yves Lorenzo
Antibiotic Specialist Pharmacist Yves Lorenzo

Every year, Australian hospitals undertake an audit that assesses the quality of antibiotic prescriptions and I’m very proud to say this year we only had 7% of prescriptions assessed as inappropriate. This is an amazing effort by all the doctors, surgeons and pharmacists at St V’s considering the national average sits around 25% inappropriate. And I think it shows just how serious everyone in the hospital is when it comes to tackling antibiotic resistance.

At St Vincent’s we have a lot of expertise in how to control the spread of superbugs and how to treat them. Although still relatively rare, superbug infections are extremely difficult to treat because there are very limited antibiotic options. Usually the only antibiotics that are active against them have severe side-effects and because they’re not used much, many doctors don’t know how to use them properly.

My role as an antibiotic specialist pharmacist is to make sure our patients get the best treatment available – whether it is for a simple infection or a superbug infection.  Any patient who is unfortunate enough to be infected with a superbug is seen immediately by Infectious Diseases specialists and myself. Our hospital has equipped itself with some of the newer and most effective antibiotics developed against superbugs, most of which are not even available in Australia. My team will tailor treatments specific for the patient and the superbug to ensure they receive the most optimal and safe treatment.

Antibiotic resistance is not just fought at the hospital level, most antibiotics are prescribed in the community and there are many ways patients can help.

If you have a viral infection such as the cold or flu, don’t expect an antibiotic to help you recover faster. A good amount of rest and hydration are more effective and because of our busy lives I think many people forget this – especially the rest part.

If your doctor does prescribe you an antibiotic, make sure you take the course as instructed. If you forget the instructions or you have questions, never hesitate to contact your doctor or local pharmacy for advice.

Bacteria, whether they’re superbugs or not, can be transmitted from person to person and the simplest way to stop the spread of superbugs is by practising good hygiene.

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