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Despite antimicrobial resistance being one of the greatest challenges facing healthcare, prescription rates in aged care facilities are on the rise and residents and care staff receive limited support to ensure that these medicines are being used effectively, according to the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

The 2018 Aged Care National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey (NAPS) found nearly 10% of aged care residents were prescribed antimicrobials. This compares to 8.8% in 2017.

“In just one year we have seen a significant and concerning increase in antimicrobial prescribing,” Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman warned.

“The World Health Organisation has named antimicrobial resistance as a global health threat. Antimicrobial resistance means our most powerful medicines, such as antibiotics, may no longer be effective in treating infections like pneumonia.

“Over prescription of antimicrobials and misuse of these lifesaving medicines are factors in the rise of resistance.”

According to the latest NAPS, antimicrobial review or stop dates are not documented for 58.9% of prescriptions; the documentation of indication was missing for 25.1% of prescriptions; and almost one-fifth of antimicrobials were prescribed for as needed administration.

“This means residents may be taking antimicrobials longer than necessary, or worse when they don’t even need to,” Associate Professor Freeman said.

“There is no clear finish date or prompt for a health care provider to check in with an aged care resident, or the care staff to make sure they are still taking or have ceased taking an antimicrobial based on their current health. This lack of support to aged care residents, and to facility staff is putting aged care residents and the wider community at risk from the epidemic of antibiotic resistance.

“The report released today highlights the real necessity for pharmacists to have more time in aged care facilities and other health care teams to ensure doctors do the right thing with prescribing medicines so that we can improve the safe use of medicines within aged care,” he said.