When you get a sore throat or an ear or sinus infection, do you know if you are receiving the proper treatment for your symptoms? In a recent report, researchers state that at least 50% of the time doctors are prescribing patients the wrong type of antibiotics. Groups from the CDC and Pew, among others, chose the aforementioned ailments due to the fact they are the cause of nearly 44 million antibiotic prescriptions per year.
This is not to say that these symptoms do not occasionally require the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics can be used to treat strep throat, a middle ear infection (should there be a pus discharge), and even a lasting sinus infections. The problem is that sore throats, as well as ear infections, are typically caused by viruses which, when treated using antibiotics, does nothing to help the patient. Sinusitis was shown to be the single most prevalent diagnosis that resulted in an antibiotic prescription. Sinus infections, for the most part, are fungal infections. This means that antibiotics will have no affect on sinus infections.
This isn’t just harmful in the short-term, but can be detrimental in the long-term. The unnecessary use of antibiotics over a period of time can cause the bacteria in a patient’s body to develop a resistance to it. With reports showing that a third of patients who receive antibiotic treatment are doing so needlessly, that’s a sizable portion of people whose bacteria are developing immunities to antibiotic misuse. This domino effect leads to a surge in drug-resistant superbugs, says the report issued by the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC also issues a very somber warning regarding the rampantly growing misuse of these medications. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says, “Antibiotics are lifesaving drugs, and if we continue down the road of inappropriate use we’ll lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life-threatening infections.” He further drives this point home by stating, “Losing these antibiotics would undermine our ability to treat patients with deadly infections, cancer, provide organ transplants, and save victims of burns and trauma.”
A study done for just the years 2010 and 2011 show that 154 million doctors visits resulted in antibiotic prescriptions during that time period. Thirty percent, or roughly 47 million, of those prescriptions were absolutely unnecessary. Using these figures as a basis for the worst case scenario, improper use of antibiotics could leave a staggering amount of people at risk of being part of the one of the worst possible pandemics in history.