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Informed Patients Can Help Stem Antibiotic Overuse

Italian campaign targeted general public, not just health professionals

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- A local, low-cost information campaign that was primarily aimed at patients -- although involving doctors and pharmacists as well -- helped reduce antibiotic prescribing, according to a new study from Italy.

Overuse of antibiotics is considered a major global public health concern because it can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Unnecessary and inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics is common.

This study, published Sept. 12 on, looked at an antibiotic education campaign implemented by local health officials in the provinces of Modena and Parma in 2011 to 2012. Nearby provinces where no such campaigns were implemented acted as a control group.

Italy has one of the highest levels of antibiotic use in Europe, according to a journal news release.

The campaign was designed to inform the general population that antibiotics are necessary in certain circumstances, are not effective against colds and the flu, and should be used when doctors prescribe them. The campaign motto was "Antibiotics, solution or problem?"

The information was presented in posters, brochures, videos in areas such as pharmacies and waiting rooms, two episodes of TV talk shows, radio segments, newspaper ads, websites, and newsletters on antibiotic resistance sent to doctors.

Over five months, the average outpatient prescribing rates for antibiotics fell nearly 12 percent in the provinces with the campaign, about 7 percent in the control group provinces and about 3 percent in the rest of Italy, the study found.

The findings show the effectiveness of a local, small-scale information campaign on antibiotic use, the researchers said.

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