Bond research team awarded NHMRC grant to help reduce global antibiotic crisis

December 15, 2016

A Bond University team has been granted funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to conduct a three-year study aimed at reducing the global threat of antibiotic resistance.

The team is led by Bond Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Tammy Hoffmann, and will use the $325,000 grant to fund a randomised trial in Queensland and New South Wales that encourages general practitioners (GPs) to use 'shared decision making' with patients in a bid to reduce antibiotic use for acute respiratory infections (ARI).

Dr Hoffmann said antibiotic resistance was a worldwide crisis and developing ways to reduce its use was critical.

"Antibiotic resistance results in patient harm, untreatable infections, restricted health care and a significant, avoidable health burden," she said.

"Reducing the use of antibiotics is central to minimising resistance, and with 80 per cent of antibiotic prescriptions provided in primary care, GPs and their patients are a priority target."

Dr Hoffmann said ARIs, including ear infections, sore throats and coughs, were the most common reason for antibiotic prescriptions, with more than five million ARI prescriptions issued in Australia each year, despite providing minimal benefits.

She said the team’s earlier research had shown that patients overestimated the benefits of antibiotics and underestimated their harms.

"We have determined that patient expectations are a key driver of antibiotic prescriptions, but patients are not always informed of the benefits and harms of using them," she said.

"Appropriately managing patient expectations in ARI consultations is crucial to reducing unnecessary prescribing.”

Dr Hoffmann said that in this trial, GPs in the intervention group would be provided with training in shared decision making, and patient decision aids developed and tested for various ARIs.

She said the decision aids helped GPs to discuss the benefits and harms of antibiotic use for ARIs with patients, discuss patients’ expectations and concerns, and jointly decide about their use.

"We are hoping this is the catalyst for collaborative decision making - not just for ARIs but for other conditions and treatments," she said.

"Once GPs have had the chance to use decision aids, and patients have had the chance to be involved in shared decision making with their doctor, we hope it will become much more common.

"For ARIs in particular, it may represent an important opportunity to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and thus help to reduce the global problem of antibiotic resistance."