Most of us have heard since we were little that if you don’t take them only when needed, you can develop resistance to antibiotics. At least that’s what was going on in my household. In fact, things are little different. You don’t become resistant to the antibiotics, the germs you’re attempting to fight do.
This can also sometimes happen when the medicine is taken correctly, so if you take antibiotics without needing them you risk giving birth to antibiotic-resistant super bacteria. These types of germs can be fatal, and often are, even though creating them can be very easily prevented.
Unfortunately, even though most doctors know about this, they still recommend plenty of antibiotics to people who don’t really need them. And this only serves to empower more and more bacterial strains. In fact, the situation is so bad that one in three antibiotic prescriptions is unnecessary.
That means that about 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are given to United States citizens every year. And according to the study, most of these are given for conditions that don’t even benefit from antibiotics – conditions like colds, the flu, bronchitis, sore throats, and other similarly mostly harmless diseases.
For the study, the team of researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pew Charitable Trust looked over data from previous CDC studies, and analyzed the antibiotic use for the years 2010 and 2011. They revealed some pretty concerning statistics related to negligent antibiotic prescriptions.
Around 154 million visits to the doctor each year (about 13 percent) end with an antibiotic prescription. Half of these are pointless, since they are prescribed for viral illnesses. About four out of ten (44 percent) of these prescriptions are given to patients with acute respiratory conditions like pneumonia, asthma, allergies, and sinus infections.
Medical experts are growing increasingly concerned with this habit, as it has started leading to a concerning number of deaths and untreatable infections. In fact, antibiotic-resistant bacteria already cause some two million illnesses every year and are responsible for some 23,000 death every year in the United States alone.
The White House has announced a plan last year to reduce these terrifying numbers to half by 2020. If they were to succeed, that would mean somewhere around 23 million fewer antibiotics prescribed every year. And that is a genuinely worrying number, particularly for physicians who should know that what they’re doing is dangerous.
According to the researchers, the reason as to why so many antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed is because doctors are concerned about patient satisfaction, so if the patients demand antibiotics, they usually get them. Plus, the study didn’t even consider the number of antibiotics prescribed by nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, or by any other profession other than doctors, so you know the numbers are, in fact, much worse.
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