Friends, we have a global problem on our hands: an antibiotic misuse epidemic.
Here are just a few of the wide selection of disturbing facts to illustrate why:
- A recent study published in the British Medical Journal has linked clarithromycin and roxithromycin, two commonly prescribed antibiotics, to an increased risk of cardiac death. (1)
- Antibiotic misuse has been linked to MRSA. (2)
- Antibiotic resistant gonorrhea strains are literally becoming “incurable” (3) and may eventually become more deadly than HIV/AIDS.
- Antibiotics have been shown to increase fatal diarrhea cases in children, upset sensitive gut flora and even trigger “good” bacteria to go “bad.” (4)
If this weren’t bad enough, the data suggests that antibiotics are not only misused, but also largely overused! The Wall Street Journal recently published an editorial highlighting this horrible disservice to healthcare patients all across the globe: (5)
Overuse of antibiotics, and prescribing broad-spectrum drugs when they aren’t needed, can cause a range of problems. It can make the drugs less effective against the bacteria they are intended to treat by fostering the growth of antibiotic-resistant infections. And it can wipe out the body’s good bacteria, which help digest food, produce vitamins and protect from infections, among other functions.
In a July study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, researchers from the University of Utah and the CDC found that 60% of the time physicians prescribe antibiotics, they choose broad-spectrum ones….
A similar study of children, published in the journal Pediatrics in 2011, found that when antibiotics were prescribed they were broad-spectrum 50% of the time, mainly for respiratory conditions….
Both studies also found that about 25% of the time antibiotics were being prescribed for conditions in which they have no use, such as viral infections.
The Danger of Too Many Drugs
In the United States alone, at least 2 million people every year become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections, and thousands will ultimately die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection. (6)
It is interesting to note that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), veritably everyone is at risk of these infections.
“Antibiotic-resistant infections can happen anywhere. Data show that most happen in the general community; however, most deaths related to antibiotic resistance happen in healthcare settings such as hospitals and nursing homes.” (6)
How Did We Get Into This Mess?
According to the data, every player has contributed to the problem: doctors, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, patients, pharmaceutical companies, and even the government. We’re ALL to blame … No one’s off the hook.
For example, according to a recent WebMD/Medscape survey answered by 1417 patients, 407 medical doctors (MD), 200 nurse practitioners (NP), and 189 physician assistants (PA): (7)
- Only 53% of health care professionals prescribe antibiotics out of medical necessity; meaning they are “certain” that drugs are needed.
- 5% of the time, MDs, NPs, and PAs prescribe antibiotics in the absence of medical necessity.
- Just 5% said that they will not prescribe antibiotics when they are not absolutely sure that they are necessary,
- 11% of clinicians indicated their reason for prescribing was that “antibiotics won’t hurt if not needed and could help the patient sooner if I’m correct.”
- 21% of patients have asked their physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant for an antibiotic when it was clinically uncertain whether or not the drug would help.
- 4% of parents have asked their physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant for an antibiotic for their child/children when it was clinically uncertain whether or not the drug would help.
- 85% of patients who request drugs believe that antibiotics will “cure” their ailment.
- 65% of patients who request drugs believe that they will make them “feel better.”
And this is the scariest part of it all:
“And of those [patients] who do say that at least some of their requests were refused because the antibiotic was unnecessary, 11.5% report that following an explanation as to why the medication was unneeded, they were then asked if they wanted it anyway. And 9% accepted!” (7)
Should We Follow Conventional Guidelines?
In the words of CDC Director, Tom Frieden, MD, MPH,
“It’s clear that we’re approaching a cliff with antibiotic resistance. But it’s not too late. Clinicians and healthcare systems need to improve prescribing practices. And patients need to recognize that there are both risks and benefits to antibiotics — more medicine isn’t best; the right medicine at the right time is best.” (7)
In an effort to reverse the global antibiotic epidemic, the CDC recommends that all healthcare providers follow several action steps including: (8)
- Only prescribe antibiotics when likely to benefit the patient, and be sure to prescribe the right dose and duration.
- Take an antibiotic time out, reassessing therapy after 48-72 hours. Once additional information is available, including microbiology, radiographic, and clinical information, a decision can be made on whether to continue the same therapy.
- Finally, encourage prevention methods with your patients. Make sure they understand how to protect themselves with vaccines, treatment, and infection control practices such as hand washing and safe food handling.
Dr. Hardick’s Recommendation
First off, I’d flip this order around. Our #1 priority should be prevention, and that starts with enhancing your defenses through these 7 natural immune boosters: (9)
- Consuming a well-balanced nutrition plan.
- Maximizing exercise with regular high intensity interval training.
- Getting your spine regularly checked by a chiropractic
- Enjoying 7-8 hours of undisturbed, restful sleep.
- Managing stress in healthy ways.
- Benefiting from strong relationships and positive, social interactions.
- Keeping a good sense of humor and focusing on being happy.
As the Proverb says, “A happy heart is like good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength,” everyone will benefit from a positive attitude and joyful spirit. (10)
With that said, I’ll leave you with a Holiday Health Challenge:
With Christmas and New Years right around the corner, what better time to focus on all the good things in your life than now? True joy and happiness (and health!) always start with a grateful heart, so keep a gratitude journal until the end of the year and only write down the good things that are happening in your life. Every night before you go to be, make sure to read your growing list. You’ll be surprised how this one small act will drastically transform your health!