Calling All Physicians: Let's Get Smart About Antibiotics

Amy Collins
November 24, 2014
Health Care Without Harm
As a practicing physician and Senior Clinical Advisor for Health Care Without Harm, I can say with urgency and certainty that NOW is the time for physicians to Get Smart about antibiotics. 
Last week, the CDC’s annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week included the launch of thePhysician Pledge for Comprehensive Antibiotic Stewardship Pledge. A growing number of physicians and pharmacists are signing the pledge to celebrate their holiday meals by purchasing a turkey raised without the use of routine antibiotics (I’ve ordered mine) along with a commitment to meet with their facilities’ food service director to provide education on antibiotic stewardship and the importance of hospitals purchasing meat raised without routine antibiotics. 
In October 2014 Consumers Union and U.S. PIRG released Prescription for Change and reported that 97% of physicians are concerned about antibiotic resistance. Each year in the United States 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria and 23, 000 die as a result of these infections. 
Fortunately, as physicians we have numerous opportunities to take action to protect antibiotics. Obviously, we can all control our prescribing practices and support our hospital’s antibiotic stewardship programs. Hopefully, gone are the days when we prescribe antibiotics for viral upper respiratory infections! 
What physicians may not know is that the majority of antibiotics used in this country are used in animal agriculture, not to treat infections in people. In fact, 80% of the antibiotics - 30 million pounds - are used non-therapeutically in food animals to promote growth and prevent diseasedue to crowded, often unsanitary living conditions. Strong science documents the link between this practice and antibiotic resistant infections in humans and multiple professional medical organizations worldwide have called for the end of this unnecessary overuse of antibiotics in agriculture to protect antibiotics for use in human medicine.