Many dangerous types of bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics meant to treat them — at rates too fast for the pharmaceutical companies to develop new and more effective ones.
With at least 23,000 people dying from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, there’s no doubt that this is an epidemic.
Unfortunately, our own overuse of antibiotics carries most of the blame…
As much as 50 percent of the antibiotics prescribed by doctors’ offices and hospitals are unnecessary. That’s because they’re being offered for viral infections, even though antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections.
In 2016, researchers concluded that about 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions given out in emergency rooms and in doctors’ offices were inappropriate.
But that 30 percent doesn’t reveal the worst of it — because there’s one place doling out antibiotics at almost triple the rate of other healthcare providers…
Urgent care: where antibiotics come easy
A recent analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that hospitals and medical offices are not the biggest offenders when it comes to over-prescribing antibiotics.
Not by a long shot…
The team of researchers from the CDC, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of Utah estimated that in 2014 the rate of inappropriate antibiotic use in urgent care clinics was almost double the rate they saw in emergency departments, and almost triple the rate seen in medical offices.
Urgent care centers have been springing up at a rapid rate all over the country. In fact, there are now more than 10,000 frequently-visited clinics around the country — and doctors fear that this will be a difficult problem to fix.
In a commentary in the July issue of the JAMA Journal, three doctors from the University of California Department of Medicine and the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation cited two possible reasons for the problem…
First, patients who visit urgent care clinics do not see their regular physician, who might be in a better position to discourage a patient from demanding antibiotics as a ‘quick fix’ for a cold or flu.
Secondly, a more insidious reason has to do with their business model. In other words, “in urgent care and retail clinics, incentives may not be aligned to decrease antibiotic use.” Patients come in demanding antibiotics as a way to feel better, and clinics fear economic repercussions in the form of non-returning patients if they don’t fill the prescription.
6 ways to avoid the antibiotic trap
The last new and effective antibiotic was developed in the 1980s. In other words, anything you’re taking now is likely not as effective as it once was and quite possibly is doing more harm than good.
Here are five ways to avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics…
- Tell your doctor you prefer to avoid antibiotics. Let your doctor know your preference clearly. Often doctors will prescribe antibiotics because they think that’s what you want — and a happy customer is a returning customer.
- If your doctor truly feels your condition warrants an antibiotic, they can tell you so. But make your preferences known.
- Ask questions. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, ask questions about whether you really need to take them immediately, or whether a “watch and wait” approach is possible. Try to get a shorter course of antibiotics, say five days, rather than a week or two.
- Listen to your body. Give your body the rest it needs when it needs it. Trust the way your body feels, and don’t push it to do things it can’t do while you’re ill.
- Avoid antibiotic exposure from meat. Livestock consume antibiotics that are designed to “beef” them up. So, look for USDA Certified Organic or American Grass-fed Certified meats. Antibiotics are prohibited in products with this label, and their “clean” status is verified by a third party.
- Learn about alternatives to antibiotics. Many readily available natural substances have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that rival the best antibiotic. Here are nine alternatives to get you started.
- Doctors fear urgent care centers are wildly overusing antibiotics—for profit — ArsTechnica.com
- Overprescription in Urgent Care Clinics—The Fast and the Spurious — JAMA Internal Medicine
- About Antibiotic Prescribing and Use — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention