OVERUSE OF ANTIBIOTICS
We are overusing antibiotics so that bacterial resistance is becoming a significant threat. The CDC has estimated that treatment of infections due to resistant bacteria costs more than $4 billion annually. There are many factors associated with increasing resistance.
Increased antimicrobial use in the community and hospital
Increase in empiric antibiotics
Prolonged and broad-spectrum antibiotic courses
Repeated antibiotic courses
Severely ill patient status
Increase use of intravascular devices and catheters
Inadequate infection control procedures
Antibiotic use in animals and agriculture
The medical community can help curb this problem by offering the patient narrow spectrum or older antibiotics, shorter duration of therapy when appropriate and manipulating the dose of antibiotics. Perhaps even more importantly, doctors need to educate their patients regarding the risk of using antibiotics and spend more time discussing prevention. Patients would be wise to ask if there are any other options to consider, if watchful waiting is an option and if the antibiotic is specific for the condition.
Together, we can reduce this significant threat of bacterial resistance.
Hana R. Solomon, MD
August 16, 2005