Antibiotics: PBS/RPBS utilisation, Oct 2014 and Feb 2015

Page last updated: 29 May 2015

Drug utilisation sub-committee (DUSC)

October 2014 and February 2015



To assess the use of antibiotics supplied through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS).


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an ongoing public health concern. Reports on the use of antibiotics can inform policy decisions to promote quality use of antibiotics and limit AMR. In April 2014, the World Health Organization released a concerning report on antibiotic resistance.[1] The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Health at a Glance 2011 publication showed that Australia’s consumption of antibiotics was higher than the OECD average in 2011.[2] 

In this context, DUSC considered that an analysis of the use of antibiotics through the PBS/RPBS would be timely.

Data source / methodology

The data were extracted from the Department of Human Services (DHS) Medicare pharmacy claims database and the DUSC database.

Key Findings

For the calendar year 2013:

  • 45% of the Australian population (10,441,015 unique patients) were supplied at least one antibiotic through the PBS.
  • There were 26,436,021 prescriptions supplied for systemic antibiotics through the PBS.
  • There were 29,227,581 prescriptions supplied for any antibiotic (including systemic and topical antibiotics) through the PBS.
  • The most commonly supplied antibiotics were amoxycillin (n=5,665,810), cephalexin (n=5,413,046), and amoxycillin plus clavulanic acid (n=4,512,149).
  • The defined daily dose was calculated to be 22.8 DDD/1000/day. This is higher than the 2009 OECD average of 21.1.[3]
  • $116.5 million in PBS/RPBS benefits was paid for antibiotics.

For commonly used systemic antibiotics (amoxycillin, cephalexin, roxithromycin and amoxycillin with clavulanic acid):

  • Repeats were ordered on the majority of prescriptions for cephalexin, amoxycillin with clavulanic acid and roxithromycin. Repeats were written on 40% of amoxycillin original prescriptions.
  • The majority of repeats ordered were not dispensed.
  • Some original prescriptions and repeats were dispensed long after the date the prescription was written. This use may not be consistent with the original reason for the prescription.

Full Report


[1] Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance. World Health Organization 2014 ISBN 978 92 4 156474 8 (NLM classification: QV 250).

[2] OECD (2011), Health at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing.; Accessed 22 August 2014.

[3] OECD (2011), Health at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing.; Accessed 22 August 2014.