5 reasons antibiotic resistance is a health crisis

June 29, 2015

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to a public health crisis-a crisis we must pay attention to now, according to a report that will be published in the August issue of Consumer Reports.

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to a public health crisis-a crisis we must pay attention to now, according to a report in the August issue of Consumer Reports.

Gill“This is not a ‘looming’ crisis. It’s happening today in our communities, schools, hospitals and nursing homes,” according to Lisa Gill, deputy health editor for Consumer Reports.

The rise of antibiotic-resistant infections and related infections is something everyone must address, doctors and patients included, according to Gill.

“If we don’t take action by drastically cutting our antibiotic use, we risk turning the clock backwards on modern medicine,” she said. “Drugs that were once effective for people with bacterial meningitis, people receiving cancer therapies, invasive surgeries, organ transplants-we risk that antibiotics will not work where we expect them to.”

Here, Gill offers the top 5 reasons why antibiotic resistance is considered the health crisis of our generation.

#1. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the unrestrained use of antibiotics sickens at least 2.25 million Americans each year and kills another 37,000 people. MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and other resistant bacteria infect at least 2 million people in the United States annually, killing at least 23,000.

#2. Superbugs such as MRSA were once confined to hospitals but have now spread into the community, including nail salons, locker rooms, and playgrounds. Antibiotic resistance is now a threat to everyone. MRSA has been traced to sports equipment and schools, gyms, locker rooms, and day-care centers. Consumer Reports shares a story about 12-year-old Zachary Doubek in New Brunswick, N.J., who was sickened by MRSA and nearly died. No one knows how he got it.

Related:Hospitals not doing all they can to prevent C diff infections

#3. There is poor awareness among Americans about antibiotic resistance and widespread misinformation about its causes. Forty-one percent of adults say they are unaware of antibiotic resistance, according to Consumer Reports.

 

NEXT: Broad-spectrum antibiotics and antibiotic misuse

 

#4. Broad-spectrum antibiotics-ones that attack multiple bacteria type at once-were introduced 30 years ago, when antibiotic development was in its heyday. The overuse of these drugs has helped breed antibiotic resistance for which new drugs are needed. But the once-steady drug pipeline that introduced more than 50 antibiotics in the 1980s and 1990s has slowed to a trickle.

Related:[BLOG]: 741 drugs in antibiotics pipeline, few first-in-class

#5. Even if effective new antibiotics make it to market, they may not provide much long-term help if healthcare professionals and patients continue to misuse the drugs. Another Consumer Reports survey of 1,000 adults found that doctors often prescribe antibiotics when the drugs aren’t necessary, such as for colds, the flu, and many sinus infections.

Related:Top 5 ways bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics

“Formulary managers can work with their hospital teams to challenge staff to reduce antibiotic prescribing,” Gill said. “And not just by changing the formularies to move antibiotics to higher tiers of coverage. Instead, consider other mechanisms.”

For example, hospitals can join Consumer Reports as part of the Choosing Wisely antibiotic reduction campaign. Most recently 11 organizations, including hospitals and employers announced that they have teamed up to reduce their antibiotic prescribing by 20% over the next 3 years.

“This is a fantastic example of what medical systems can do-literally, just decide to work together to stop over-prescribing these drugs. Other medical systems have worked among themselves independently to reduce prescribing, and it works,” Gill said. “Other tactics can include using a hospital’s electronic medical record system to prompt providers to double-check they really want to write that antibiotic script.”

This is this first report in a 3-part investigative series focused on America’s antibiotic crisis.