Almost everyone has used antibiotics at some point, and as part of their work through the Choosing Wisely® campaign, Consumer Reports is now bringing attention to the overuse of antibiotics, including when they work – and when they don’t.
To help educate patients on when antibiotic use may or may not be appropriate, Consumer Reports recently launched its “antibiotics hub,” which includes tools and resources covering a variety of situations patients may encounter.
In conjunction with this new resource, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new Vital Signs report entitled “Making Healthcare Safer: Antibiotic Rx in Hospitals: Proceed with Caution.” The report articulates the issues related to overuse of antibiotics in a hospital setting and offers recommendations for hospital leaders to “protect patients and preserve the power” that antibiotics offer.
The issue of antibiotic use in hospitals is critical because of the potential for resistance and reduced effectiveness. Antibiotics work by killing bacteria. However, in many cases a few bacteria survive; they “resist” the antibiotic and take over and multiply. As widespread use of antibiotics increases, often for such ailments like viral infections that cannot be treated by antibiotics, so do the number of “resistant” bacteria, which in turn renders the medication ineffective – for everyone.
To help educate physicians on the importance of reducing antibiotic overuse, several societies have included recommendations in their Choosing Wisely lists, including the American Academy of Family Physicians which states: “Don’t routinely prescribe antibiotics for acute mild-to-moderate sinusitis unless symptoms last for seven or more days, or symptoms worsen after initial clinical improvement.”
Consumer Reports’ patient-friendly resources about antibiotic overuse are publicly available from Consumer Reports on its new “hub.” They include:
- Choosing Wisely brochures on antibiotic-related topics such as pink eye, ear infections, sinus infections and urinary tract infections;
- A “roundup” of Choosing Wisely antibiotic-related information called “Antibiotics: When you need them – and when you don’t” which includes an overview of potential harms and side effects of antibiotics, short summaries of ten Choosing Wisely antibiotic topics and a full page of “steps to reduce use of antibiotics.”
- Consumer Reports magazine articles on antibiotic-related topics such as the stuffy nose, sore throat and common cold; antibiotic misuse; and use of antibiotics on healthy animals;
- A new Choosing Wisely poster called “5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Take Antibiotics;” and
- Several short videos on antibiotic use, including a new 30-second Choosing Wisely animation on questions to ask your doctor before using antibiotics.
To learn more about working with Consumer Reports on the Choosing Wisely campaign, becoming a consumer partner or the new antibiotics hub, please contact HealthImpact@cr.consumer.org.