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It's Get Smart About Antibiotics Week

Observance Nov. 18-24 highlights threat of antibiotic resistance and importance of appropriate antibiotic use.
LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) - The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), the Arkansas Chapter of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, Arkansas Medicaid and the Arkansas Hospital Association have partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote Get Smart About Antibiotics Week 2013. 

Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, Nov. 18-24, 2013, brings attention to antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use. According to the CDC, the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotics has increased in the last decade. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.

Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria. Misuse of antibiotics jeopardizes the usefulness of essential drugs. Children are of particular concern because they have the highest rate of antibiotic use due to common childhood infections.

“When used correctly, antibiotics are very effective and in many cases, life-saving,” said Dr. Gary Wheeler, Branch Chief of Infectious Disease, at ADH.

“However, if we overuse or misuse antibiotics, we reduce the likelihood that those life-saving medicines will work when we need them the most.”

Upper respiratory infections, which are often caused by viruses, account for three quarters of all antibiotics prescribed by office-based physicians. Research suggests that antibiotics were prescribed in 68 percent of acute respiratory tract visits, and of those, 80 percent were unnecessary according to CDC guidelines. Furthermore, data suggests that for all ages combined, more than ten million courses of antibiotics are prescribed each year for viral conditions that do not benefit from antibiotics. 

Get Smart About Antibiotics Week activities in Arkansas include distributing information on Get Smart topics to a wide variety of healthcare workers in various healthcare settings, as well as providing information to the public through social media. Nationally, the CDC will host a Public Health Grand Rounds, “Combating Resistance: Getting Smart About Antibiotics,” on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at noon. The CDC will also host a Twitter chat on Friday, Nov. 22, at noon; the public can participate on Twitter by using the hashtag #SaveAbx.

Earlier this month, ADH and the Arkansas College of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences sponsored Arkansas’s first Antimicrobial Stewardship Conference. The conference brought together healthcare providers and administrators to discuss the importance of developing antimicrobial stewardship programs at healthcare facilities and a statewide antimicrobial stewardship collaborative. Antimicrobial stewardship programs seek to optimize antibiotic prescribing to improve individual patient care and reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance, as well as reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections. Also of note, Arkansas’s Medicaid program has spearheaded an effort to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics for upper respiratory infections with one of its episodes of care projects.

“We know it will take a collaborative effort to combat antibiotic resistance,” Wheeler said. “It’s very promising to have partners from hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, Medicaid, and public health come together to work on a statewide approach to address this growing problem.”

The 2013 observance also marks the fourth year of an international collaboration, which will coincide with European Antibiotic Awareness Day, Australia’s Antibiotic Awareness Week, and Canada’s Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Click here for more information about Get Smart Week, as well as tips on how patients and healthcare providers can help reduce antibiotic resistance. For information about improving antibiotic use in Arkansas, search Facebook and Twitter for #GetSmartArk.
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