Updated: Jun 20, 2021
Antibiotics (Penicillin, Levaquin, Azithromycin etc.) are usually prescribed to treat bacterial infections after clinical signs, laboratory tests and procedures, along with patients symptoms lead physicians to believe that the patient is infected with a particular bacteria or a group of possible bacteria. Antibiotics have been used effectively for many years to treat various bacterial infections that can otherwise cause prolonged and expensive hospital stays and sometimes result in the death of the patient. Due to the relatively slow development of new antibiotics, it is very important that we ensure appropriate use of the ones currently available in order to slow down the incidence of bacteria resistance. Bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics due to several factors. One of the many reasons is due to sub-optimal
use of antibiotics, which happens when they are not used as prescribed to elicit any kind of help to the body or when a wrong antibiotic is prescribed for an infection.
As pharmacists, we use our judgement daily around this topic and consult with physicians when we have questions. Most hospital systems have a multi-disciplinary antimicrobial stewardship program that usually include at least 1 infectious diseases clinical pharmacist. Generally, the goal of this program is to improve the use of antibiotics within the hospital. The program encourages and promotes the appropriate use of antibiotics at the right dose, duration, and route of administration by following evidence-based studies and local susceptibility data.
According to the United States Center for Disease Control, about 30 percent of all antibiotics prescribed in the U.S are prescribed unnecessarily in doctors’ offices and emergency departments; and each year, 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the U.S, and at least 23,000 people die as a result. This is definitely concerning and requires health care practitioners and patients to be aware of this staggering and alarming number.
What you should know as a patient:
Always take antibiotics as prescribed by your doctors. If you have questions regarding your prescribed antibiotics, ask your pharmacists. Pharmacists are drug experts and they work closely with your doctors to ensure safe and appropriate antibiotics use. It is important to note that antibiotics, unlike over the counter analgesics like Tylenol or Aleve, cannot be shared or saved for use in the future. Patients have called to ask me if they could take antibiotics that were left over from a prior infection tucked away in their medicine cabinets. It is not very obvious to many patients that antibiotics are not supposed to be used in this manner. They should only be used when prescribed and for the duration they were prescribed.
It is important for patients to note that not all infections require the use of antibiotics. The common cold and influenza (flue) are viral infections. Antibiotics do not help in these situations, and may actually cause more harm than any good. Not all infections will require antibiotics therapy. In some cases, management of symptoms will be enough and the body’s immune system will help fight the infection. Discuss your symptoms with your local pharmacist or doctor and they can help determine if you will benefit from an antibiotics therapy.
By: Adeboye O