The overuse of antibiotics is now an epidemic in the United States and it is creating antibiotic resistance.
They are prescribed for almost everything.
The issue with taking too many antibiotics is that they kill good bacteria in the gut, which makes it more difficult to fight infections in the future.
The immune system gets used to them and creates antibiotic resistance.
A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that in 2010, health care providers prescribed “258.0 million courses of antibiotics in 2010, or 833 prescriptions per 1000 persons.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now reporting that the infectious organisms that antibiotics usually target have adapted to the drugs, because they have been used for so long.
Research from George Washington University suggests the public is not equipped with the proper information about antibiotic safety, which causes patients to expect them, and drives doctors to prescribe them more.
Research teams from George Washington University, Cornell, and Johns Hopkins Universities surveyed 113 patients in urban hospital to gauge their understanding of antibiotics. They found out that patients may request antibiotics, even if they know that they have a viral infection, and the drugs will not make them better. These patients believe that taking antibiotics will not worsen their condition, and that there is not much risk versus the possibility that they may help.
“Patients figure that taking antibiotics can’t hurt, and just might make them improve. When they come in for treatment, they are usually feeling pretty bad and looking for anything that will make them feel better. These patients might know that there is, in theory, a risk of side effects when taking antibiotics, but they interpret that risk as essentially nil,” said David Broniatowski, assistant professor in GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Though most patients don’t know about it, there are risks to taking antibiotics, such as secondary infections or allergic reactions.
“More than half of the patients we surveyed already knew that antibiotics don’t work against viruses, but they still agreed with taking antibiotics just in case,” Dr. Broniatowski said. “We need to fight fire with fire. If patients think that antibiotics can’t hurt, we can’t just focus on telling them that they probably have a virus. We need to let them know that antibiotics can have some pretty bad side effects, and that they will definitely not help cure a viral infection,” he adds.
The research showed that most educational materials used to communicate the risks of unnecessary antibiotics focus on the differences between bacteria and viruses. However, most of these tools don’t address patients’ beliefs that antibiotics don’t pose risks.
The study was published in the journal Medical Decision Making.
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1. “Patients Don’t Understand Risks of Unnecessary Antibiotics, GW Study Shows.” The George Washington University. The George Washington University, 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
2. “Germs Are Germs, and Why Not Take a Risk? Patients’ Expectations for Prescribing Antibiotics in an Inner-City Emergency Department.” Sage Journals. Medical Decision Making, 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.
3. “Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Mar. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.