According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two million people are infected with drug-resistant bacteria each year – and at least 23,000 people die as a result of these infections. Many of these cases are the result of antibiotic overuse.
When antibiotics are overused, bacteria adapts to withstand the effects of the drugs. Eventually it becomes drug resistant and no longer responds to antibiotics. This can happen simply by a person taking antibiotics – particularly when inappropriately prescribed.
A common misconception is that antibiotics can cure all types of sickness. But, in fact, they are only able to kill bacterial infections. But this doesn’t stop them from being overused – antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed a whopping 50 percent of the time. This includes when antibiotics are prescribed for viral conditions as well as when the wrong antibiotics are prescribed for a patient’s condition.
The consequences of antibiotics overuse are serious and include:
- Longer recovery times
- More frequent trips to the doctor’s office
- Increased medical expenses and more expensive treatments
- In some cases, even death
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent antibiotics overuse:
- Stay up to date on vaccinations to reduce your risk of getting sick. You should also take care to wash your hands regularly and practice safe food preparation to keep germs at a minimum.
- Avoid taking antibiotics for viruses, such as the common cold and flu.
- Only take antibiotics that are prescribed to you, and always take them exactly as prescribed.
Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network is focused on reducing antibiotics overuse. Our antimicrobial steward group is finding ways clinicians can optimize treatment of infections without overusing antibiotics. We’ve developed clear guidelines about who benefits most from labs, screenings, antibiotics and other forms of treatment. Over time, we’ve seen positive results and antibiotics overuse at the hospital has decreased.