A lot of medicine is prescribed in the care industry, of which many are antimicrobials – special medicines that kill microorganisms or stop their growth.
As we get older, we often rely on these types of medicine to fend off illnesses and infections our body may not be able to on their own.
But while these medicines do have their benefits, they also come with potential problems.
These problems were highlighted in a report this week by the Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia (AURA) Surveillance System, which concluded that those in aged care were at an increased risk of developing resistances to antimicrobial medicine, as well over prescription.
“Given the findings of the AURA Surveillance System, the use of antimicrobials in aged care is an issue for consideration in prescribing practice,” said a spokesperson from AURA.
While the report concerns itself primarily with that of those living in aged care homes, it noted that the reliance on antimicrobial medicine exists across the care industry, meaning it can affect those living in home care as well.
The spokesperson for AURA also noted that older people in care may need to visit hospitals far more often than other age groups, where there is an increased risk of developing antibiotic-resistant infections.
While anyone can develop resistances to medicines, the AURA spokesman noted that elderly people were the ones most at risk due to relying on antimicrobial medicine more than any other age group.
“Elderly patients are at increased risk of infection, and are at high risk of getting antimicrobial resistant infections,” the spokesman said.
“More than two-thirds of the results submitted to the Critical Antimicrobial Resistances (CARAlert) surveillance system for critical antimicrobial resistances, in the twelve months to March 2017, were in patients older than 60 years.”
Over Prescribing Is an Issue
Director of Clinical Excellence for Ward Medication Management, Dr Chris Alderman, says that while resistances may be due to over prescription, we must remember that Doctors do prescribe these medicines for a reason:
“There can, of course, be pockets of over-prescribing around,” he says. “But no doctors go out and want to prescribe lots of drugs to people for no reason – it’s not something that is done without reason.
“It is important to note that when it comes to older people, signs and symptoms can be different and the stakes are a lot higher.
“In saying that, there are situations where it could be wise to hold off.”
However, Dr Alderman also noted that naturally there are risks involved with taking these types of medicine:
“Medications can cause side effects, mix with other medications – this is why it is important to not prescribe if it is not needed,” he said.
“It is not necessary if the prescription is creating these risks for no benefit.”
What to Do If You Are Concerned
Both Dr Alderman and AURA have stated that if you are concerned with the possibility of over prescription and developing immunities to antimicrobial drugs, you should contact your local General Practitioner or Pharmacist, where they will be able to provide you with additional information and support.