Nudge vs Superbugs – 12 months on

Nudge vs Superbugs – 12 months on

Domestic Policy Behavioural Economics
Thursday, 25 June 2020

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

BETA Nudge vs Superbugs - 12 months on. How can we slow the rise of drug-resistant superbugs?

BETA and the Department of Health today released the 12 month findings of their trial into reducing antibiotic prescriptions, as part of the Australian Government’s strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

AMR is one of the biggest threats to global health. Already over 700,000 people across the world die every year from infections we can’t treat.

A UK Government report estimates that, by 2050, if we don’t do anything to reduce it, 10 million people a year will die because of AMR.

The more we use antibiotics the more bacteria become resistant to them—and Australia’s antibiotic use remains high, particularly in primary care.

Due to the types of illnesses and number of patients that they treat, GPs prescribe more antibiotics than other health professionals in Australia, particularly during the cold and flu season.

Patient expectations, time pressures and diagnostic uncertainty all contribute to increases in prescribing.

The trial explored whether providing GPs with information about their prescribing would help them to reflect on and reduce their antibiotic prescribing where appropriate and safe.

The team sent letters from the Chief Medical Officer to the top 30 per cent of prescribers comparing their antibiotic prescribing with their peers.

Providing GPs with this information resulted in a reduction in antibiotic prescriptions filled of up to 12% over the first six months after the letters were sent.

Importantly, 12 months after the letters were sent they had a lasting effect.

Over a twelve month period, the letters reduced the number of antibiotic prescriptions being filled by around 190,000.

Our trial shows the value of simple letters as part of the bigger strategy to combat AMR across all sectors.

To read the full report, visit: Nudge vs Superbugs: a behavioural economics trial to reduce the overprescribing of antibiotics.