The Dangers of Antibiotic Abuse
BY HENRY CHOY
A growing body of research shows that doctors are prescribing too many antibiotics, leading to overuse and antibiotic resistance, which makes infections harder to treat.
“U.S. doctors are prescribing enough antibiotics to give them to four out of five Americans every year,” writes Mike Stobbe for the Associated Press.
In many of these cases, antibiotics should not be prescribed, a journal article published last year titled “The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis” states.
According to the article, “Studies have shown that treatment indication, choice of agent, or duration of antibiotic therapy is incorrect in 30 to 50 percent of cases. … In addition, 30 to 60 percent of the antibiotics prescribed in intensive care units have been found to be unnecessary, inappropriate, or suboptimal.”
Although antibiotics, which became commonly available in the 1940s, have helped to greatly reduce the mortality rate from infections, when they are taken for the wrong reasons, the chance of resistance increases because the bacteria can adapt.
“Studies have demonstrated a direct relationship between antibiotic consumption and the emergence and dissemination of resistant bacteria strains,” the article’s author, C. Lee Ventola, explains, adding that resistance to almost every antibiotic has been seen.
In 1945, Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered penicillin (one of the most frequently prescribed antibiotics), foresaw this issue and warned the public of the dangers of overusing and abusing the drug.
He said: “In such cases, the thoughtless person playing with penicillin is morally responsible for the death of the man who finally succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism. I hope this evil can be averted.”
How do you think the “evil” Fleming was referring to can be averted? Do you think health care policies should be adopted to regulate the prescription of antibiotics more closely? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.