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Responsible medicine use a top AMA priority

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Earlier this year, the United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies described microbial resistance to antibiotics as a “catastrophic threat” to modern medicine. Last month, Australia’s Office of the Chief Scientist issued a warning that “there is now a genuine threat of humanity returning to an era where mortality due to common infections is rife”.

Australia is in a strong position to meet this challenge because the availability of antibiotics is highly regulated and those legally able to prescribe antibiotics – medical practitioners and veterinarians – are highly trained professionals.

However, differences in overseas practices and standards mean that Australia is also at risk of antibiotic resistance coming into the country via travellers and imported food products.

The AMA is actively engaging in the national effort to control anti-microbial resistance.

Our President, Dr Steve Hambleton, promotes the quality use of antibiotics whenever opportunities arise in media interviews and other public forums. For example, he was sought out as an authoritative spokesperson on the issue when the Chief Scientist’s report was released.

AMA Federal Councillor Dr Liz Feeney met with the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Baggoley, the Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mark Schipp, and the National President of the Australian Veterinary Association Dr Ben Gardiner last month to discuss ways to improve collaboration between the medical and veterinary professions. The AMA and AVA agreed to work on consistent public messages and member communications.

The AMA also supports the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care in implementing antimicrobial stewardship programs in hospitals.

We participated in the first ‘Australian One-Health’ Antimicrobial Resistance Colloquium, focusing on surveillance measures, that was hosted by the Commission as part of the development of a new national strategy to prevent and contain antimicrobial resistance.

The AMA is also a full member of NPS Medicinewise, the national organisation providing independent, evidence-based advice to prescribers and patients about medicines.

I encourage you make use of the extensive material and resources it produces, including information you can provide to your patients, which is available free from its website.

For example, practice points for prescribers and advice on assisting patients to adhere to therapy duration is available at: http://www.nps.org.au/publications/health-professional/nps-direct/2013/june-2013/duration-of-antibiotic-therapy; and a respiratory tract infections symptomatic management pad and patient counselling tool is available at: http://www.nps.org.au/health-professionals/resources-and-tools/decision-…

The AMA, as an organisation and through its members, has a key role to play in promoting the responsible use of all medicines to ensure Australia’s enviable health care standards are maintained into the future.