It’s back to NYC for me this afternoon. I can’t wait to spend the evening in Times Square squeezing in a bit of unnecessary shopping, people watching, and eating, of course. Then, Saturday morning I am headed to the Fox News studio for this weekend’s Fox and Friends shoot discussing the dangers of antibiotic resistance. A new report released by the World Health Organization shows that the antibiotic crisis is now bigger than the Aids epidemic and could get worse.
It’s easy to hear about a global problem like antimicrobial resistance and think “someone” needs to take action. But, as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, that “someone” is us. We are in the unique position to be part of the change necessary to help solve this problem.
We all know what it’s like to see patients who believe they need antibiotics for a sore throat, cough, cold, earache or even the flu. Meanwhile, we are under pressure from administrators to increase billing, see more and more patients, and reduce visit times. The temptation to simply print a prescription for an antibiotic in the interest of customer satisfaction and saving time is high. But, when we give in to this pressure we are not only harming our patients but contributing to a world wide health crisis.
Studies show that rates of prescribing unnecessary antibiotics are astonishingly high. In one study, medical providers prescribed antibiotics to 73 percent of patients diagnosed with bronchitis and 60 percent of patients presenting with sore throats. In reality, none of the patients diagnosed with bronchitis and just 10 percent of patients with pharyngitis should have received antibiotic prescriptions. The CDC estimates that more than half of antibiotics prescribed for upper respiratory symptoms are unnecessary costing patients and insurance providers a whopping $1 billion in worthless antibiotics.
Overuse, improper use, and over prescribing of antibiotic medications have landed us in a tough spot. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) looked at antibiotic resistance rates for seven common bacteria in 114 countries, the most comprehensive study of its kind to date. Unfortunately, the WHO’s findings indicate that the problem of antimicrobial resistance is getting worse and is an increasing threat to global health. Resistant infections increase rates of illness, prolong hospital stays, present an economic burden to the healthcare system, and increase risk of death. According to the WHO, common infections and minor injuries could soon pose a major health risk as a result of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Compounding the problem is the lack of new antibiotics on the market. In the past 30 years, no new classes of antibiotics have been developed. Currently, the pharmaceutical industry is focused largely on making more profitable medications such as those to treat cancer. Some government entities propose tackling the problem at the federal level by funding antibiotic research, however research finding is sporadic and difficult to pass amidst pressures to curb government spending.
NPs, PAs and MD’s must begin to take initiative to help solve this problem. Yes, explaining why taking an antibiotic isn’t needed will lengthen your visit times and anger some patients, but it’s time we take this problem seriously on an individual level. You may even find that making a difference in regards to antibiotic resistance is easier than anticipated. In a recent study, doctors and nurse practitioners signed a poster-sized letter of commitment to reducing the number of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. The letter was placed on display in exam rooms. Providers who signed the letter reduced antibiotic prescribing by one-fifth.
Get creative and innovative with your commitment to curbing the antibiotic resistance problem. A little extra time and effort could save you, your patients, and your community from a future of resistant infections.
Don’t miss Fox and Friends Saturday, May 3rd at 8:45am EST for more discussion!
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