[Pharmwaste] Antibiotic overuse could threaten medicine
Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Tue Nov 10 12:01:09 EST 2009
Antibiotic overuse could threaten medicine
Infectious bugs increasingly becoming resistant to drugs, experts say
updated 9:53 a.m. ET, Tues., Nov . 10, 2009
LONDON - Overuse of antibiotics in Europe is building widespread
resistance and threatening to halt vital medical treatments such as hip
replacements, intensive care for premature babies and cancer therapies,
health experts say.
Dominique Monnet of the European Center for Disease Prevention and
Control's (ECDC) scientific advice unit said the "whole span of modern
medicine" is under threat because bugs are becoming resistant to
antibiotics, rendering the drugs useless.
"If this wave of antibiotic resistance gets over us, we will not be able
to do organ transplants, hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy,
intensive care and neonatal care for premature babies," he told
reporters at a briefing.
Antibiotics are needed in all these treatments to prevent bacterial
infection. But drug-resistant bacteria are a growing problem in
hospitals worldwide, marked by the rise of superbugs such as
methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA).
Such infections kill about 25,000 people a year in Europe and around
19,000 in the United States
On top of the risks to future treatments, Monnet said the costs of
antibiotic resistance were already hurting - and may hit healthcare
budgets across the European Union yet harder if the problem is not
The six most common multi-drug-resistant bacteria - often referred to as
superbugs - cause around 400,000 infections a year in Europe, killing
around 25,000 people and using 2.5 million hospital days a year.
The ECDC, which monitors and advises on disease in EU, calculates that
with a hospital day costing an average of 366 euros ($548), superbug
infections are already sucking up 900 million euros a year in extra
hospital costs, and a further 600 million euros a year in lost
"Across the European Union the number of patients infected by resistant
bacteria is increasing and that antibiotic resistance is a major threat
to public health," the ECDC said.
Britain's government was criticized by a parliamentary committee on
Tuesday for failing to tackle the majority of hospital-acquired
infections by narrowing its focus to two high profile ones - MRSA and
The ECDC is planning an "antibiotic awareness" campaign on November 18
to urge doctors to stop overprescribing antibiotics.
Patients demanding antibiotics for viral infections often are not aware
that they will not work, it said, but doctors are and should stop giving
in to pressure.
Sarah Earnshaw of the ECDC's communications unit, pointed to a 2002
survey that showed 60 percent of patients do not know that antibiotics
do not work against viruses like flu and colds.
"Patients often demand antibiotics," she said. And doctors often think,
she said, that giving in is a quicker way to deal with a demanding
patients than persuading them otherwise.
Copyright 2009 Reuters. Click for restrictions.
Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email: Deborah.DeBiasi at deq.virginia.gov (NEW!)
WEB site address: www.deq.virginia.gov
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