doctor and patientAmericans are suffering from too much of a good thing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has designated this as “Get Smart about Antibiotics Week.”

Overuse of antibiotics has resulted in bacteria that are resistant to the medication – and which have lead to an increased number of infections.

“This trend demands urgent action by patients, healthcare providers, facility administrators and health care insurers to preserve the last lines of defense against many of these germs,” according to the CDC.

“The threat of untreatable infections is real,” said Arjun Srinivasan, MD, Associate Director for the CDC’s Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs. “Although previously unthinkable, the day when antibiotics don’t work is upon us. We are already seeing germs that are stronger than any antibiotics we have to treat them. ”

Part of the antibiotic problem comes from patients demanding them for conditions which don’t require their use.

“Pediatricians see many upper respiratory infections and sore throats in our offices each year, most of which are caused by viruses and don’t require antibiotic treatment,” said Thomas McInerny, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). McInerney advised pediatricians to talk to parents about appropriate treatment options.

What You Can Do

Patients can take antibiotics exactly as the doctor prescribes, complete the prescribed course of treatment even when starting to feel better, and ask what treatment would be best for their illness instead of demanding antibiotics from their doctor, if not needed.

Healthcare providers can prescribe correctly; collaborate with other providers and patients; stop, and assess, and embrace antibiotic stewardship.

Healthcare facility administrators and payers can focus on reducing unnecessary antibiotic use, which can reduce antibiotic-resistant infections such as Clostridium difficile infections, along with decreasing costs. This can improve patients outcomes.

 “It’s time to hold ourselves accountable for careless use of antibiotics – a fragile and imperiled global health resource. We already are faced with bacteria that are resistant to all available antibiotics, and the situation will only get worse without serious stewardship and highly reliable measures to prevent transmission,” said Don Goldmann, MD, Senior Vice President, Institute for Healthcare Improvement.