In the lead up to the WHO Global Antibiotic Awareness Week (Nov 14-20, 2016), the Deputy Prime Minister and the Federal Health Minister have issued a joint media release this week announcing their implementation of the National Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Strategy for 2015-2019.

The plan aims to combat the immediate global threat of antimicrobial resistance. In developing the strategy, the Coalition has partnered with health professionals, research communities, veterinarians and agricultural industries, and earmarked $9.4 million in funding from the 2016/17 Federal Budget for project development.

Federal Health Minister, The Hon. Sussan Ley MP explained antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, parasites and other disease-causing organisms become resistant to medicines used to treat the infections they cause.

“A particular focus will be Australia’s high use of antibiotics in general practice, which is 20 per cent above the OECD average. Bringing prescribing rates down is critical, as high antibiotic use is the number one driver of the increasing resistance to antimicrobials.

“The newly released plan takes a ‘one health’ approach, which recognises that human, animal, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked and that combatting resistance to antimicrobials requires action in all sectors where antimicrobials are used,” said Ms Ley.

Deputy PM, The Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP further explained the plan would play an important role in protecting the future of humans and animals in Australia.

“Antimicrobials have a variety of uses in agriculture, and are regarded as important for animal health, welfare, biosecurity and production,” Mr Joyce said.

“Australia has one of the most conservative approaches to the use of antimicrobials in livestock production in the world. Nearly all antimicrobials used in animals are Schedule 4 medicines, meaning that they are prescription only medicines.

“All antimicrobial products are evaluated by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority before being registered for use in Australian animals. This evaluation includes assessing the risk of development of antimicrobial resistance,” said Mr Joyce.

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia (SHPA) was quick to issue a release voicing their support for the AMR Strategy, and calling for further ways to tackle and reign in Australia’s overuse of antibiotic medicines.

“Tackling Australia’s high rate of antibiotic use is a key challenge for all prescribing practitioners.

“Don’t initiate an antibiotic without an identified indication and a predetermined length of treatment or review date,” warned SHPA CEO, Ms Kristin Michaels.

“Research shows that prescribing a routine course of antibiotics significantly increases the chance of an individual carrying a resistant strain of bacteria.”

The implementation plan, which can be found of the Department of Health’s website here, outlines specific focus areas for action and includes activities being undertaken by the Federal, State and Territory governments, non-government organisations, professional bodies and research organisations, to minimise the development of antimicrobial resistance and ensure the continued availability of effective antimicrobials to treat common infections, in both humans and animals.

Read the full Ministerial media announcement here.