Australian consumer perspectives, attitudes and behaviours on antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance: A qualitative study with implications for public health policy and practice

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Public Health, 2017, 17 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2017 The Author(s). Background: Consumers receive over 27 million antibiotic prescriptions annually in Australian primary healthcare. Hence, consumers are a key group to engage in the fight against antibiotic resistance. There is a paucity of research pertaining to consumers in the Australian healthcare environment. This study aimed to investigate the perspectives, attitudes and behaviours of Australian consumers on antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance, to inform national programs for reducing inappropriate antibiotic consumption. Method: Semi-structured interviews with 32 consumers recruited via convenience and snowball sampling from a university population in South East Queensland. Interview transcripts were deductively and inductively coded. Main themes were identified using iterative thematic analysis. Results: Three themes emerged from the analysis, to elucidate factors affecting antibiotic use: (a) prescription type; (b) consumer attitudes, behaviours, skills and knowledge; and (c) consumer engagement with antibiotic resistance. Consumers held mixed views regarding the use of delayed antibiotic prescriptions, and were often not made aware of the use of repeat antibiotic prescriptions. Consumers with regular general practitioners were more likely to have shared expectations regarding minimising the use of antibiotics. Even so, advice or information mediated by general practitioners was influential with all consumers; and helped to prevent inappropriate antibiotic use behaviours. Consumers were not aware of the free Return of Unwanted Medicines service offered by pharmacies and disposed of leftover antibiotics through household waste. To engage with mitigating antibiotic resistance, consumers required specific information. Previous public health campaigns raising awareness of antibiotics were largely not seen by this sample of consumers. Conclusions: Australian consumers have specific information needs regarding prescribed antibiotics to enable appropriate antibiotic use behaviours. Consumers also have expectations for high quality general practice consults conducted in a manner that increases consumer confidence in the treatment decision, regardless of whether an antibiotic is prescribed. To reduce inappropriate consumption of antibiotics and to more fully engage Australian consumers in mitigating antibiotic resistance, changes in health policy and practice are required.
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