Antibiotic overuse leads to shortage

Antibiotic Awareness Week 

(13-19 Nov) reminds us that without effective antibiotics, modern healthcare would be impossible.

Infection control is becoming more difficult, due to increasing numbers of antibiotic-resistant infections, overuse of antibiotics and shortages of key antibiotics used to treat hospital patients.​


A recent survey of pharmacists across Australian hospitals revealed shortages are more prevalent than previously thought and stop-gap solutions such as ordering medicines from overseas or using emergency stock are increasingly common.


The survey, by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA), found 32 per cent of shortages had a direct impact on patient care through changes to a less effective medicine; administration of a different formulation, or a lack of available alternatives.


Dr Joseph Doyle, Antimicrobial Stewardship Physician, Monash University Department of Infectious Disease and Epworth HealthCare said increasing antibiotic resistance in the community was an emerging problem.


“Antibiotic resistance is an emerging threat to healthcare. It makes antibiotic choices more difficult and makes infections harder to treat,” Dr Doyle said.


“To reduce this threat, we need to use antibiotics wisely and only for bacterial infections in accordance with national guidelines.” 


Epworth HealthCare has an Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS) team that monitors more than 500 courses of treatment each month and offers suggestions to doctors to optimise treatment where possible.


These might include targeting treatment based on microbiology results, or switching from IV to oral treatment as a patient’s condition improves. Orally-administered therapy is more convenient, reduces the risk of IV-line related complications, and can help minimise length of stay in a hospital.