Penicillin was the first commercialized antibiotic and was hailed as a “miracle drug.” Antibiotics are now in danger of losing their effectiveness. Along with being the most commonly prescribed drugs in human medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported antibiotics are also prescribed unnecessarily with incorrect dosing or duration up to 50 percent of the time.
Because of increased exposure to antibiotics, through overuse in human medicine and through food-producing animals, antibiotic-resistant bacteria has grown and spread.
“Antibiotics can save lives, but we need to use them appropriately and responsibly. Patients should work with the providers to take part in antibiotic stewardship,” added Lois Truh, MD, of Truh Clinic in Huron, SD.
Dr. Truh is one of many healthcare professionals who have combined forces in Huron, SD, to spread the word about protecting antibiotics through appropriate use.
“Our antibiotic stewardship group in Huron, SD, is working very hard, and diligently, to break the ‘culture of expectations’ when it comes to treating viral infections,” stated Jesse Van Heukelom, MD, from Huron Regional Medical Center Physicians Clinic. “Approximately 23,000 patients are dying each year in the United States as a direct result of antibiotic resistant infections. Unfortunately, this number will only grow.”
Despite the inability to fight viral infections, antibiotics’ reputation for relieving symptoms resulted in a growing demand by healthcare consumers.
Van Heukelom commented, “We must make smart choices in prescribing as well as consuming antibiotics. Medical providers need to take a little more time to explain the reasons why antibiotics are not necessary, and the patients must be willing to go away from a visit with no antibiotic and use supportive care for their viral infections.”
Bacteria can actually contribute to a healthy body and exists inside and outside the body. Any bacteria exposed to an antibiotic will eventually adapt to defeat the drug and then multiply.
“Since all bacteria will eventually develop resistance after repeated antibiotic exposure, we need to make sure we are only prescribing antibiotics when appropriate and for a duration of time that is not excessive,” explained Elliot Hinricher, RPh, for Huron Regional Medical Center. “When your healthcare provider is able to identify what bacteria are growing from a laboratory sample, they also need to make sure you are on the best antibiotic to fight those bacteria.”
When antibiotics are necessary, Dr. Truh encourages patients to follow four basic tips regarding antibiotic use:
- Stay in contact with your provider while on an antibiotic.
- Complete the full course of the drug, even if you start feeling better, to prevent the bacteria from making you sick again.
- Do not skip doses or save antibiotics for a future infection.
- Do not use antibiotics prescribed for someone else.
Antibiotics are a precious resource and preserving their usefulness will require cooperation and engagement by all.
Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) is partnering with practitioners, pharmacists and system leadership as well as consumers to slow antibiotic-resistance bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections. Learn more about the available outreach, education and technical assistance on the Great Plains QIN antibiotic stewardship web page.