Antibiotic Overuse and Resistant Bacterias - Consumer Justice Foundation

Antibiotic Overuse and Resistant Bacterias

Written by Faith Anderson on November 14, 2012
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Antibiotic Overuse: Global and Community Issue

“Not only is this a global issue from the perspective of nations having to deal with the issue and problem, but this is about getting the public to understand this is about their communities,” said Jay Campbell, vice president of Hart Research, which was involved in the antibiotic overuse research. As part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week,” the agency in conjunction with the Pew Charitable Trusts surveyed 1,004 American adults about their understanding of the use of antibiotics. The organizations also asked two focus groups – one that had “frequent users” of antibiotics and one that had a cross-section of adults – about their antibiotic habits and beliefs.

Consumer Knowledge Regarding Proper Antibiotic Uses

According to the survey, 79% of Americans knew that taking antibiotics when they weren’t necessary could render them less effective at treating future illnesses, and 86% understood that they should take the full course of antibiotic prescriptions. However, nearly everyone in the focus groups admitted that even if their doctor instructed them to take their entire antibiotic prescription, they didn’t complete the course and stopped taking the medication when symptoms went away. In addition, 39% didn’t realize that taking antibiotics when they weren’t necessary could weaken the effect of the drugs for the people around them. The focus group indicated that they thought antibiotic overuse led to a personal tolerance to the medications, but did not realize the act could allow drug-resistant bacteria to flourish in their community.

Antibiotic Overuse and Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Antibiotic overuse has contributed to the growth of drug-resistant strains of bacteria in the United States. In fact, estimates indicate that a shocking 90,000 Americans die from healthcare-associated infections every year – many of which are drug-resistant – and that number is on the rise. From 1993 to 2005, the number of hospitalizations related to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA) – a bacteria associated with pneumonia, surgical site infections and bloodstream infections – skyrocketed from 1,900 to 368,000 in the United States alone. In addition, deaths caused by Clostridium difficile – a bacteria that causes intestinal problems and severe diarrhea – increased 35% every year from 1999 to 2004.

Doctors Overprescribing Antibiotic Drugs

In light of these alarming statistics, Lauri Hicks, medical director of the CDC’s antibiotics education effort, warns that the misconception regarding antibiotic treatment is part of what’s causing the problem of antibiotic resistance. Too many people are requesting antibiotics to cure illnesses that the medications just aren’t meant to treat, and too many doctors are willing to prescribe the medications even if they will be ineffective, which is the case more than half of the time. “We’re running out of treatment options for many infections and losing more lives to antibiotic resistances every day,” said Hicks. “Doctors should prescribe the right drug at the right dose at the right time.”

Posted Under: United States
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