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14 Nov 2012 | Press Release

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Australian Consumer Attitudes Towards Antibiotics and Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics

In 2012, NPS MedicineWise launched a five-year campaign to promote the better use of antibiotics and combat the spread of antibiotic resistance in the Australian community. As part of this national campaign for consumers and health professionals, we commissioned research into consumer attitudes towards antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. The first wave of research - conducted in December 2011 - was released in April 2012. This second wave* was conducted with 1019 participants after six months to measure changes in consumer attitudes and the impact of the campaign. Full survey results are available on request.


More Australians realise that antibiotic resistance is a growing problem.

  • 68% of people surveyed know that bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
  • This represents an 18% increase in public awareness of this issue over a 6 month period.

Many Australians don't know how their own behaviour contributes to the spread of resistance and increases their own risk.

  • Just over half of people surveyed (52%) know that not completing a full course of antibiotics as directed contributes to the spread of antibiotic resistance.
  • Only around 1 in 3 people (35%) know that not completing a full course of antibiotics may mean they won't work for them in future.
  • While 63% of people surveyed recognise that taking antibiotics when they are not needed contributes to the spread of resistance, more than half (57%) don't realise that antibiotics don't treat viruses.

Many Australians don't understand which illnesses can be treated with antibiotics.

  • More than half of people surveyed (57%) know that antibiotics kill bacteria only; 1 in 5 think antibiotics kill both viruses and bacteria.
  • Less than 1 in 3 people (32%) know that colds and most coughs are caused by viruses only.
  • Around half of people surveyed (52%) are unsure as to whether viruses or bacteria are the cause of colds and most coughs. This represents a 5% reduction in 6 months.
  • Less than half of people surveyed (43%) know that they should not take antibiotics to kill viruses.
  • 2 in 3 people realise that antibiotics are not the best treatment for colds and most coughs.

Many Australians expect or ask to be prescribed antibiotics for coughs, colds, and ear, nose, throat and chest infections (ENT/CI).

  • 1 in 5 people (21%) expect to be prescribed antibiotics when they visit the GP with a cough or cold.
  • More than half of people surveyed (53%) would ask their GP for antibiotics to treat an ENT/CI.
  • 3 in 4 people (76%) expect to be given an antibiotic when they go to the GP with an ENT/CI.

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