Journal Article

What do consumers want to know about antibiotics? Analysis of a medicines call centre database

Kate L Hawke, Treasure M McGuire, Geetha Ranmuthugala and Mieke L van Driel

in Family Practice

Volume 33, issue 1, pages 75-81
Published in print February 2016 | ISSN: 0263-2136
Published online October 2015 | e-ISSN: 1460-2229 | DOI:
What do consumers want to know about antibiotics? Analysis of a medicines call centre database

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Australia is one of the highest users of antibiotics in the developed world.


This study aimed to identify consumer antibiotic information needs to improve targeting of medicines information.


We conducted a retrospective, mixed-method study of consumers’ antibiotic-related calls to Australia’s National Prescribing Service (NPS) Medicines Line from September 2002 to June 2010. Demographic and question data were analysed, and the most common enquiry type in each age group was explored for key narrative themes. Relative antibiotic call frequencies were determined by comparing number of calls to antibiotic utilization in Australian Statistics on Medicines (ASM) data.


Between 2002 and 2010, consumers made 8696 antibiotic calls to Medicines Line. The most common reason was questions about the role of their medicine (22.4%). Patient age groups differed in enquiry pattern, with more questions about lactation in the 0- to 4-year age group (33.6%), administration (5–14 years: 32.4%), interactions (15–24 years: 33.4% and 25–54 years: 23.3%) and role of the medicine (55 years and over: 26.6%). Key themes were identified for each age group. Relative to use in the community, antibiotics most likely to attract consumer calls were ciprofloxacin (18.0 calls/100000 ASM prescriptions) and metronidazole (12.9 calls/100000 ASM prescriptions), with higher call rates than the most commonly prescribed antibiotic amoxicillin (3.9 calls/100000 ASM prescriptions).


Consumers’ knowledge gaps and concerns about antibiotics vary with age, and certain antibiotics generate greater concern relative to their usage. Clinicians should target medicines information to proactively address consumer concerns.

Keywords: Antibiotics; consumer health information; information seeking behaviour.

Journal Article.  4509 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Primary Care

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