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REF NO.: 42

SUBJECT: Concern about overuse of antibiotics in Newfoundland and Labrador

DATE: Nov. 15,2016

More antibiotics are being used in Newfoundland and Labrador than anywhere else in Canada.

According to the Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System report for 2016, doctors in this province handed out 33 per cent more antibiotics than in Saskatchewan, the second highest user.

This overuse can cause more harm than good. Antibiotics have side effects and using them when they are not needed encourages the growth of bacteria that are resistant to the medicine. In fact, more and more drug-resistant bacteria are appearing in Canada every year.

Choosing Wisely NL, an initiative hosted at Memorial University and developed in collaboration with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, is reaching out to patients and health-care providers to help them start the conversation about reducing antibiotics use. 

“Bacteria resistant to antibiotics spread between people, especially in hospitals and nursing homes, and are extremely difficult to treat,” said Dr. Peter Daley, assistant professor of medicine at Memorial and an infectious diseases physician and medical microbiologist. “Antibiotics should be used to treat life-threatening infection caused by bacteria, and should not be used for viral infections. This includes not using antibiotics in both adults and children with uncomplicated wheezing, cough, sore throat and runny nose or ear infections.”

To help combat the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Choosing Wisely NL has started a campaign to implement two key recommendations. First, patients should not use antibiotics for upper respiratory infections that are likely viral, such as colds, influenza-like illnesses or most kinds of sinus infections of less than seven days duration. The second recommendation is to not use antibiotics to treat bacteria in the bladder in older adults unless specific urinary tract symptoms are present.

Dr. Pat Parfrey, Choosing Wisely NL leader at Memorial, says that members of the program will interact with the public on an ongoing basis to help explain why antibiotics are often unnecessary and can cause harm. In addition to information sent to primary care providers, Choosing Wisely NL will advertise and spread the word as widely as possible to the public through print messaging, online and radio advertisements and by directing patients back to the Choosing Wisely NL website to learn more about the dangers of antibiotics overuse.

“We will be working with health-care practitioners to encourage them to prescribe fewer antibiotics, with nursing homes and hospitals to follow best practices so that bacterial resistance does not become a major public health problem,” said Dr. Parfrey.

For more information about Choosing Wisely NL and the latest campaign about antibiotic use, visit here.

 

About Choosing Wisely NL

Choosing Wisely NL is a program to help clinicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments and make smart and effective choices to ensure high quality care. It is an educational initiative seeking to more efficiently match a patient’s medical needs with the most appropriate type of care that is safest for the patient. For each initiative and outreach program, Choosing Wisely NL has identified key areas of risk and will work towards improving, through the supply of educational resources, the appropriate use of testing and treatment in these areas. The program officially launched in October 2016.

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For additional information, please contact Virginia Middleton, communications co-ordinator, Faculty of Medicine, at 709 864 6363, 709 725 8157 or vmiddleton@mun.ca.   

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