Help Prevent Overuse of Antibiotics

Tuesday, December 06, 2016 | 09:10am

 NASHVILLE – Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine, and chances are you and your family members have taken them multiple times. These vital drugs help fight life-threatening bacterial  diseases and are generally safe when appropriately prescribed. But overuse and misuse of antibiotics can reduce their benefit and contribute to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, which kill thousands of Americans every year. The  Tennessee Department of Health encourages Tennesseans to learn about proper prescribing and use of these medications.

 “Antibiotics are critical to our ability to fight some serious diseases, but increasingly they are less effective because we are overusing these powerful medicines in both humans and animals,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD,  MPH. “Each of us has a responsibility as patients to know that taking and prescribing them is not to be done lightly. In addition to the growing threat of resistance, these drugs can also cause very serious side effects, more than we once  knew, and that means we have to ask our health care provider how to use them the right way and to prescribe them only when they are really needed.”

“As we approach the cold and flu season, our concern about misuse of antibiotics increases,’’ said TDH State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. “To help stay healthy this winter, and to reduce the misuse of antibiotics, we urge all Tennesseans six months of age and older to get a flu shot.”

Antibiotics only combat bacterial infections, not viruses. Sinus infections, sore throats and ear infections are usually caused by viruses and antibiotics are rarely recommended. Research shows up to 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed. Taking antibiotics if you don’t really need them, or not taking them as prescribed, can contribute to the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant infections. Patients should ask their healthcare providers several key questions about an antibiotic prescription before taking it:

•      Why do I need it?

•      What kind of infection do I have? Is this the best drug for it?

•      How long should I take it?

•      Will I get better without it?

•      What are the side effects?

•      Will it interact with other medications?

•      How and when should I take it?                                                  

‘’Antibiotic resistance rates in Tennessee are among the highest in the nation,’’ said TDH Antimicrobial Resistance Program Director Marion Kainer, MD, MPH. ‘’We urge healthcare providers and patients to learn about the proper use of antibiotics and take steps to help reduce antibiotic resistance rates in our state.’’                                                              

There are more than 140,000 emergency department visits for reactions to antibiotics each year. Antibiotics taken for the wrong reason are more likely to cause harm than good. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether antibiotics are right for you. If you are prescribed  antibiotics, take as instructed and do not stop early, even if you are feeling better.

The Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are dedicated to educating health care providers and the public about appropriate antibiotic use. For more information on appropriate antibiotic use go to