Studies show that up to one million antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily every year. Antibiotic prescriptions offer no possible benefits for colds and the other viral infections, but many people, including doctors, continue to view these drugs as a quick fix.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its partners launched Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a national campaign to educate consumers and health care providers about appropriate antibiotic use in hospitals and throughout the community. The CDC is distributing educational information, funding state and local health department campaigns, and supporting local campaigns across the country to help spread the word about the need for wiser antibiotic use.
Timed with the CDC launch, RWJF grantee Extending the Cure (ETC)—a CDC campaign partner—released new research showing worrisome trends in antibiotic use. According to ResistanceMap, an online interactive tool created by ETC, the top five states with the highest per capita consumption of antibiotics are all in the South, a finding that suggests a risky pattern of overuse. A new map from ETC paints a picture of antibiotic use across the United States.
Extending the Cure also released a paper this week describing a new "Drug Resistance Index" that allows policymakers and hospitals to track changes in antibiotic effectiveness over time using a single measure. The index, similar in concept to the consumer price index, appeared in the British Medical Journal Open.
Extending the Cure researchers say the broader problem of antibiotic resistance needs to be addressed through comprehensive solutions, including better infection control and surveillance as well as improved efforts to curtail overuse of antibiotics, a solution that would help preserve the power of the drugs we have left on the shelf.