Thursday, April 06, 2017

30-50% of prescribed antibiotics not needed, CDC says; food giants vow to phase out use on poultry

At least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in 2014 in U.S. doctor's offices, hospital clinics and emergency departments were unnecessary, says a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study found that "total inappropriate antibiotic use, inclusive of unnecessary use and inappropriate selection, dosing and duration, may approach 50 percent of all outpatient antibiotic use."

During the study year 266 million courses of antibiotics were dispensed to outpatients in U.S. community pharmacies, or five prescriptions for every six people, CDC says. (CDC map: Outpatient antibiotic prescriptions per 1,000 people in 2014)
Researchers from Australia's Bond University asked parents of children 12 and younger when it was appropriate to use antibiotics for common upper respiratory illnesses. They found that doctors often prescribe unnecessary antibiotics for children to placate worried parents of "just in case," reports Teresa Carr of Consumer Reports magazine. Doctors want high satisfaction ratings from patients, according to a 2014 survey of 155 doctors by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wis. "Almost half the physicians believed that the pressure to obtain better scores prompted inappropriate prescribing, including unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics," Carr writes.

There's another side to the issue that needs more attention – the misuse and overuse of antibiotics on livestock and poultry, Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, writes for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. (Kentucky ranks first in per-capita antibiotic prescriptions.)

Chandler notes that 70 percent of antibiotics considered important to human medicine in the U.S. "are for use on food producing animals. Typically, the drugs are given to animals on a routine basis – even if they aren't sick – to promote growth and to compensate for crowded unsanitary conditions. That practice turns farms into breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cab travel off the farms and into our communities."

Tyson Foods, the world's largest meat company by revenue, and Perdue Farms are transitioning away from antibiotic use in their branded chickens, Chandler notes. Fast-food industry leaders including "McDonald's, Subway, Chick-fil-A, Wendy's, Chipotle, and Taco Bell have made various commitments to phase out of the routine use of antibiotics from the chicken supply chain. Subway's commitment was for all meats."

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