In years gone by, doctors told us to make sure we take the full course of antibiotics they prescribed. Recent evidence shows that the right course of medication is often shorter than previously thought, and may mean not finishing the packet.

The message with antimicrobials (such as antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals) is: check with your GP or specialist. Don’t self-medicate by taking left over antibiotics.

World Antimicrobials Awareness Week is from 18-24 November 2020 and the theme this year is ‘United to preserve antimicrobials’.

With fewer new medications introduced this year, a new global virus and increasing rates of drug-resistant infections, it is more important than ever to stand by this year’s slogan: “Antimicrobials: handle with care”.

Antimicrobials are lifesaving medications, but only if they work against the organism causing infection.

As Glenn Valoppi, Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist at Slade Pharmacy / Epworth HealthCare, points out after most types of surgery antibiotics are not required to prevent infections, and should only be used to treat an infection.

“In the past, many surgeons were trained to prescribe antibiotics after surgery. Over time, it’s been shown there is often no need to do that, especially with all the precautions already taken in operating theatres around warding off infections. When all this is done really well, adding in extra antibiotics doesn’t change very much,” Glenn said.

Doctors now sometimes prescribe a single pre-operative dose to prevent infection for procedures.

“Taking antimicrobials can in some cases cause side effects. It’s something your GP will discuss with you, but it’s an unnecessary risk if you do not need them,” Glenn added.

“When patients have an infection in hospital, we start treatment for that particular diagnosis and monitor patient progress. At discharge, if the recommended treatment course has not been administered, only the quantity of antibiotics required to complete the remaining days should be supplied. The evidence now tells us it’s often better to treat people over a shorter period.

“We need to ensure we consider all doses received during the hospital visit and at discharge provide only the required balance.

“It just doesn’t add any benefit to take more medication than we need.”


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