Why We Have to Start Cutting Back on Antibiotic Use
Up to one million antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily every year, often for colds and other viral infections that they can’t even cure. This overuse is a serious public health threat because it significantly reduces antibiotics’ effectiveness to combat all sorts of infections, including life-threatening ones caused by microbes like MRSA and E. coli.
As part of a national effort to reduce improper use of antibiotics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its partners are promoting Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a campaign to educate consumers and health care providers about appropriate antibiotic use in hospitals and throughout the community.
Pioneer grantee Extending the Cure (ETC), a partner in CDC’s campaign, also released new data this week on antibiotic use trends. These findings are the focus of a guest blog post on CDC’s Safe Healthcare blog, where Ramanan Laxminarayan, ETC director, describes a pattern of high antibiotic consumption in the Southeastern United States, particularly in West Virginia and Kentucky. USA Today ran a story about the new research on Wednesday.
Laxminarayan also authored an op-ed in the McClatchy Tribune, calling on public health officials to put in place strategies that address these worrisome trends, such as broader flu vaccination. The new research comes to us from ResistanceMap, an online mapping tool developed by ETC that illustrates the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. This new map provides a look at antibiotic use across the U.S.
Also this week, ETC released a paper describing a new “Drug Resistance Index” that allows policymakers and hospitals to track changes in antibiotic effectiveness over time using a single measure. The index, similar in concept to the consumer price index, appeared in Monday’s edition of the British Medical Journal Open.
Extending the Cure is working to change how we as a society think about antibiotics, encouraging us to think about these drugs as a shared resource—just like water, trees or oil reserves—that we rely on and should preserve so they maintain their effectiveness.
Let us know what you think: Do we, as a society, use antibiotics too often? What strategies should we use to ensure a future with plenty of powerful antibiotics? Leave a comment here or tweet @PioneerRWJF #SaveAbx and @CDDEP to tell us what you think.