November 18 – Addressing Antibiotic Awareness Internationally!

What’s special about Thursday, November 18, 2010? Well, aside from high hopes that my University of Washington Huskies will crush PAC-10 rival UCLA tonight, its also a very important day worldwide for raising antibiotic awareness…

Across North America and Europe today, initiatives are being taken to provide education and raise awareness about a class of medicines that most of us take for granted – antibiotics. Of course antibiotic resistance is at the heart of the problem in discussions of MRSA and deadly hospital acquired infections. This is why, on an international level, governments and infection control organizations are coordinating to get everyone the message about the consequences of inappropriate antibiotic use. The central message of European Antibiotic Awareness Day is to promote the prudent use of antibiotics in hospitals through monitoring of bacterial resistance trends, correct prescribing practices, and tailored treatments based on type of infection identified. In Canada, a similar event is designed to educate both doctors and patients about antibiotic stewardship via various webcasts and new guidance documents. Finally, in the US, the week long “Get Smart About Antibiotics” is a government sponsored event that is using a wealth of resources to get the message across about bacterial resistance and other related issues.

In advance of these events, earlier this week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a press release addressing the seriousness of antibiotic resistance worldwide (http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r101115.html). In this release the Center cited evidence from previous studies showing that 50% of antibiotic prescriptions are either unecessary or inappropriate. Furthermore, it stated that antibiotic resistant infections cause higher mortality rates and worse outcomes for patients, and that over a billion dollars is spent annually on unecessary antibiotics. A billion dollars?…..on UNECESSARY medication????….How can we know these numbers and continue to allow this to happen? Just to make sure this message sets in with every reader: We are not only actively creating antibiotic resistant bacteria that threaten the lives of our friends and family alike, but we are actually PAYING $1 billion dollars a year for the privelege of doing so!!!

The CDC is attempting to remedy the growing issue of resistance through raising public awareness as to what conditions do and do not require antibiotics. For example – no matter how bad you think your mid-winter cold is, antibiotics WILL NOT help you. Common colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria, and antibiotics aren’t designed to work on viral infections. However, doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics rampantly either because the patient demands it or because they feel that the placebo effect of taking any medication will be powerful enough to make the patient feel better. It is this and other important themes that are being highlighted on this November 18 around the world, so take a minute to check out the various websites and educate yourself. Ultimately it is your responsibility as much as anyone else’s to use our precious antibiotics responsibly and reduce the spread of MRSA and other emerging superbugs….

Oh yeah….and GO HUSKIES!!!

For more information about “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” in the US, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/campaign-materials/week/index.html

For more information about “European Antibiotic Awareness Day”, go to: http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/EAAD/Pages/Home.aspx/

For more information about Canadian Antibiotic Awareness Day: go to: http://www.chica.org/pdf/101117news.pdf

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