Antibiotics are being over-prescribed and over-used by more than 30% and it's affecting our ability to fight infections.

Antibiotics Are Over-Prescribed, One In Three Aren’t Necessary, And Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Are Growing

Are you in the camp that thinks antibiotics are the standard go-to treatment from the doctor when you don’t feel well? Studies have found that nearly one-third of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary, which equates to nearly 47 million prescriptions per year!

Cause

In a study conducted and just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pew Charitable Trust, research was done on doctor visits and prescriptions given in 2010 and 2011. Doctors prescribed antibiotics millions of times more than was medically necessary. The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, basically said that only an “estimated 353 out of 506 antibiotic prescriptions written annually were appropriate.” That’s about 70 percent. Which means the other 30 percent did not need to be written. However, that’s 30 percent of 154 million doctor visits.

Most people don’t understand the difference between viral and bacterial illnesses, and what is used to treat each. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, but not viruses. Typical bacterial infections include strep throat and urinary tract infections. Typical viruses include chickenpox and the common cold. The most common illnesses that were found to be over-treated with antibiotics, or that could have been better treated in other ways, were sinus infections, ear infections, sore throat, and bronchitis.

Doctors know when you have something that needs an antibiotic, but sometimes will give in and grant a prescription when a parent asks for one for their kids, or if the adult wants one to be able to return to work, even if it is not necessary or wouldn’t be beneficial. Doctors “want you to be happy,” said Dr. Richard Besser on Good Morning America.

Effect

Instead of asking for an antibiotic right off the bat, ask instead what else you can do to feel better. Are there other remedies? Are there natural remedies? Is it something like a cold that will run its course or an actual bacterial infection that needs antibiotics?

If you are treated with an antibiotic that does nothing to medically combat your symptoms, the only outcome is the inability of your body to react favorably to the antibiotic the next time it’s really needed. There has been a steady increase in antibiotic-resistant infections, and a decline of antibiotics that can treat them. In addition, there are side effects to antibiotics including rashes, diarrhea and, in women, yeast infections.

Even though this is a new study, it is not new information. Health officials have been warning for decades that antibiotics are being over-prescribed and over-used, and there is even a presence in the foods we consume, which lowers even more the efficacy of antibiotics to treat a serious bacterial infection.

The CDC reported how alarming this trend has become. “Food animals serve as a reservoir of resistant pathogens and resistance mechanisms that can directly or indirectly result in antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. … resistant bacteria may be transmitted to humans through the foods we eat.” Antibiotics are given to livestock to combat disease, but also for forced growth. Not only do we consume the now antibiotic-resistant food when we eat those animals, but we can then develop infections that are antibiotic-resistant, which means doctors may not know how, or have the appropriate medications, to treat them.

The Washington Post reported back in September, 2013, that this was becoming an epidemic of alarming proportion. The threat does not just concern antibiotic-resistant infections, there is also growing concern about developing superbugs that aren’t stopped by current antibiotics or borders.

“An overuse of antibiotics has led to the emergence of superbugs, disease-causing microbes that are becoming increasingly unaffected by even the most powerful drugs.”

There are even further implications. Sick people who cannot get well because their infection is resistant to antibiotics stay in the hospital for longer periods of time, and require “more extensive treatment.” This adds to health care costs, and adds additional strain on the healthcare system. And this is not a problem solely found in the United States. “New forms of antibiotic resistance can cross international boundaries and spread between continents with ease,” the 2013 report stated. “Many forms of resistance spread with remarkable speed.”

How often do you get sick? Do you ask for or get treated with antibiotics? You might want to rethink that course of action.

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

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