The statistics are staggering.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 2 million people in the U.S. become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year – and at least 23,000 people die from those infections.
The rise in deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be traced to antibiotic overuse: antibiotics are prescribed too frequently and for conditions that they can’t cure, such as bronchitis and upper respiratory infections (URIs), which impacts how effective they’ll be in the future.
A number of new national efforts are aiming to educate clinicians and the public about proper antibiotic use. In March, the White House released the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, and hosted a forum on antibiotic stewardship in June.
The CDC’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program seeks to assure that antibiotics are prescribed only when needed. The campaign features many interactive tools and materials for patients and clinicians, including printable antibiotic prescription pads that provide patients with information on their ailment, why they don’t need an antibiotic prescription, and what alternative medications or treatments can help them. The CDC’s Core Elements of Antibiotic Stewardship for Nursing Homes was released in September, and focused on ways to gradually move away from antibiotic use in settings with elderly patients.
Antibiotic stewardship is also a focus area of the Choosing Wisely® campaign, with several specialty societies addressing antibiotic overuse in their recommendations of things doctors and patients should question. Consumer Reports has also developed many patient-facing brochures on the topic, including “Antibiotics: When you need them—and when you don’t.”
The campaign has prompted and supported efforts to reduce antibiotic overuse at many organizations and institutions. From 2011 to 2014, Virginia Mason Medical Center cut antibiotic prescribing in half by developing a standardized clinic workflow for upper respiratory infections, year-to-year antibiotic prescribing reports and a phone call protocol in which nurses helped patients with URI symptoms. Physicians with the Nebraska Health Network reduced prescriptions of an antibiotic sometimes used inappropriately to treat sinusitis by 17.5 percent from 2013 to 2014.
In June, the ABIM Foundation announced the seven recipients of a second round of Choosing Wisely grants. Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the grantees will focus on implementing Choosing Wisely recommendations, including reducing the use of antibiotics for viral infections by at least 20 percent in the next three years.
Get Smart About Antibiotics Week 2015 runs November 16 to 22 and will continue to raise awareness through events and activities in collaboration with state programs and nonprofit and for-profit partners.
CDC and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (@ECDC_EU) will be hosting an all-day global Twitter chat on Wednesday, November 18. Follow along or participate using the hashtag #AntibioticResistance. Follow CDC (@CDC_NCEZID) and CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrFriedenCDC) from 2 to 4 p.m. EST.
Following a conversation on Antimicrobial Stewardship in the Ambulatory Setting related to the Get Smart campaign back in March, CDC staff will join another Choosing Wisely Learning Network Webinar to discuss reducing unnecessary antibiotic use in URIs. The webinar will take place on Thursday, November 19 from 2 to 3 p.m. EST. If you are interested in participating, contact Program Manager Kelly Rand at firstname.lastname@example.org.