• Overuse of Antibiotics on the Rise
  • December 18, 2014 | Author: Seth A. Katz
  • Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
  • A study by Consumers Reports revealed 97 percent of physicians are concerned about the growing use of antibiotics. The widespread use has led to a rise of antibiotic-resistant infections. In particular, 85 percent of doctors participating in the survey reported they had seen patients in the past 12 months who had been diagnosed with an infection that was immune to multiple medications, and 35 percent of those doctors either had a patient die or suffer severe complications from the bacteria.

    The survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, included 500 physicians in the U.S. who prescribe antibiotics on a regular basis.

    The results of the study demonstrated the more antibiotics are used, the more opportunities bacteria have to develop resistance, creating "superbugs." Since antibiotics kill off other bacteria in the body as well, they create an ideal environment for these superbugs to grow.

    According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 million people in the U.S. become infected with a superbug every year, and 23,000 people die as a result of the infection.

    Not just human overuse
    Think Progress noted it was not only antibiotic use in humans that worried the participating physicians, but the majority also expressed worry regarding the amount of antibiotics being used in livestock. Eighty percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. are for animal consumption, reported the survey. This is to make the animals grow faster, but humans end up ingesting these antibiotics in the end, as these animals are being raised for human consumption.

    However, this trend is getting worse, not better, with the survey demonstrating a 16 percent increase in use of antibiotics for animal consumption between 2009 and 2012. Many of these antibiotics are nearly identical to human medications.

    Clostridium difficile
    Medical Xpress reported on a specific aspect of antibiotic overuse. The increase of antibiotic use has led to a rise in an intestinal disease known as Clostridium difficile, or CDI, which is a drug-resistant colonization of bacteria in the gut. This happens as antibiotics kill the normal gastrointestinal bacteria allowing CDI to spread rapidly.

    CDI in its most common forms causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. However, more severe cases can result in intestinal inflammation or even death.

    What is being done
    Though the study emphasizes that more needs to be done to curb the use of antibiotics in agriculture, physicians in the healthcare industry are taking the matter into their own hands. Of the participating doctors, 80 percent reported they are actively working to minimize the amount of prescriptions for antibiotics they write. While this doesn't mean cutting prescriptions out all together, it means writing prescriptions for the shortest length of time possible or not prescribing them when there are alternatives.