Contributed by Lisa Dumkow, PharmD, and Nnaemeka Egwuatu, MD
Since their discovery nearly a century ago, antibiotics have been hailed as miracle drugs, saving millions of lives. Unfortunately, over the past few decades an alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been reported around the world. November 16-22 marks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and the ever-increasing threat of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the most serious health threats in the United States and worldwide. These infections result in worse patient outcomes, prolonged hospital stays, and costlier treatments. Each year in our country, up to two million people acquire infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria and 23,000 persons die as a result.
Antibiotic overuse is the most common factor driving increasing antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medications in both hospital and outpatient settings. Unfortunately, as many as 50% of antibiotic prescriptions are not necessary or not prescribed optimally. For example, consider the 40 million U.S. citizens who receive antibiotics for upper respiratory infections each year. It is estimated that 27 million of these are prescribed inappropriately for viral infections. Locally, in the greater Grand Rapids area, the overuse of the commonly prescribed antibiotic azithromycin (Z-pack) has led to a 50% resistance rate of Streptococcus pneumonia, the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia.
What can you do to help reduce antibiotic-resistant infections?
obtain the appropriate immunizations to prevent infections,
frequent hand washing, and
remember that antibiotics are ineffective for viral infections.
It is important for medical providers and the public to Get Smart About Antibiotics every day of the year.