AUSTRALIANS spooked by the swine flu pandemic have driven a rise in the use of antibiotics in the past two years, undoing the work of health campaigns and prompting concerns about the rise of so-called superbugs.
Doctors dispense 22 million prescriptions each year, and Australians are estimated to be among the highest users of antibiotics in OECD countries.
NPS Medicinewise, a federally funded body promoting health education, says about 3 million of those prescriptions are wasted on viral infections.
Antibiotic prescriptions dropped during an NPS awareness campaign about treating common colds which ran in 2006-08, but they rose again in 2009 after the outbreak of swine flu.
The NPS is planning to renew its campaign early next year and the World Health Organisation has put antibiotic resistance on the agenda for World Health Day next month.
One of the reasons world health experts believe antibiotic-resistant bugs are increasing is because of the misuse of antibiotics by doctors and patients. (Sydney Morning Herald)