Recent study shows New Zealanders over-consuming antibiotics

An Auckland University researcher says New Zealand needs to cut its antibiotic use in half and quickly.

A recent study found Kiwis are over-consuming the drugs, making them ineffective and costing the country more and more each year.

"People need to understand that about half of the antibiotics that are taken are doing no benefit," Auckland City Hospital Infectious Disease Physician Dr Mark Thomas told Newshub.

"People get a cold or a sore throat or a runny nose or the flu and think I need some antibiotics for this.  All of those illnesses are caused by virus and antibiotics make no difference at all."

Dr Thomas says doctors are handing out prescriptions unnecessarily to keep patients happy.

"They don't want to disappoint the patient and they may be not concerned about the fact that the medicines are becoming less and less effective as a result of this wasteful use."

However the Medical Association chair Kate Baddock says the study shows more needs to be done in this area. 

"Being even more aware of using antibiotics where they're not indicated or appropriate so that we are doing it less."

New Zealand is ranked seventh in the world for antibiotics use.

Almost 14,000 prescriptions are given out every day. That's one and half times the amount consumed in the UK and three times the amount in Norway.

The Ministry of Health says resistance to antibiotics is rapidly becoming a major threat. 

A five year "resistance plan" was put in place by the Ministry last year but Dr Thomas says other countries have moved a lot quicker in introducing campaigns to educate doctors and patients about over-prescribing. 

Dr Thomas says the outlook is bleak and expensive if things don't change

"We'll see many more patients with infections that are impossible to treat and infections that we can currently treat with easy antibiotics. 

"Ones that you might take as tablets will become harder to treat and might have to be treated intravenously."

Dr Thomas wants to see a 50 percent reduction in antibiotics use in the next five years.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: