A new national strategy will aim to reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance following statistics showing Australia’s consumption of antibiotics is among the highest in the developed world.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley and Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said Australia’s first Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy would address the decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics because of the rise of resistance in disease-causing bacteria.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, parasites and other disease-causing organisms become resistant to the medicines used to treat the infections they cause.

Ms Ley said in 2013 more than 29 million prescriptions for antibiotics were supplied under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation PBS to over 10 million patients or 45 per cent of all Australians.

“The over and misuse of antibiotics has been identified as a significant contributor to the emergence of resistant bacteria,” Ms Ley said.

“The new national approach focuses on measures that will prevent disease-causing bacteria from developing resistance to antibiotics as well as driving down the inappropriate use of antibiotics.

“Antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines are a precious resource and this strategy is not about removing access but about providing guidance to using them in the safest and most effective way.”

Ms Ley said a recent survey showed 65 per cent of Australians believed antibiotics would help them recover from a cold or flu more quickly, one-in-five people expect antibiotics for colds and flu and nearly 60 per cent of GPs surveyed would prescribe antibiotics to meet patient demands.

“Australia’s consumption of antibiotics is one of the highest among developed countries and well above the OECD average,” Ms Ley said.

“The Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy identifies actions for the appropriate use of antibiotics and demonstrates the Abbott Government’s commitment to good public health policy.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a serious problem and this strategy will guide how we tackle it as a nation – domestically, as well as at the regional and global levels.”

Minister Joyce said the strategy also guided antibiotic use in animal health and agricultural productivity.

“The strategy will guide actions to monitor, and seek to minimise, the development of antimicrobial resistance in livestock,” Minister Joyce said.

“With good administration of antibiotics in both humans and animals, there will be real public health benefits and enhancements to the productivity, quality and reputation of the livestock industry.”

Minister Joyce said the strategy was developed in partnership with industry and government, and will guide action by governments, health professionals, veterinarians, farmers and communities to reduce the emergence of resistant bacteria that are, in some cases, becoming increasingly more difficult to treat.

“Stakeholders from across the human health, animal health, food and agriculture sectors, as well as states and territory governments will be crucial in implementing this strategy, and we’re working closely with these stakeholders on the implementation plan,” Minister Joyce said.

The release of Australia’s strategy comes following discussions at the World Health Assembly last week to agree to a global strategy for responding to the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

To read the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019, visit www.health.gov.au/amr or www.agriculture.gov.au