Antibiotic resistance: Personal responsibility in somewhat short supply



Most primary care physicians agree that antibiotic resistance and inappropriate prescribing are problems in the United States, but they are much less inclined to recognize these issues in their own practices, according to the results of a nationwide survey.

Survey: For many, antibiotic resistance is somebody else's problem

“This lack of recognition of physicians’ own contributions to inappropriate prescribing presents a barrier to encouraging widespread stewardship uptake,” Rachel M. Zetts, MPH, of the Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C., and associates wrote in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

Almost all (94%) of the 1,550 internists, family physicians, and pediatricians who responded to the survey said that antibiotic resistance is a national problem, and nearly that many (91%) agreed that “inappropriate antibiotic prescribing is a problem in outpatient health care settings,” the investigators acknowledged.

Narrowing the focus to their own practices, however, changed some opinions. At that level, only 55% of the respondents said that resistance was a problem for their practices, and just 37% said that there any sort of inappropriate prescribing going on, based on data from the survey, which was conducted from August to October 2018 by Pew and the American Medical Association.

Antibiotic stewardship, defined as activities meant to ensure appropriate prescribing of antibiotics, should include “staff and patient education, clinician-level antibiotic prescribing feedback, and communications training on how to discuss antibiotic prescribing with patients,” Ms. Zetts and associates explained.

The need for such stewardship in health care settings was acknowledged by 72% of respondents, but 53% of those surveyed also said that all they need to do to support such efforts “is to talk with their patients about the value of an antibiotic for their symptoms,” they noted.

The bacteria, it seems, are not the only ones with some resistance. Half of the primary care physicians believe that it would be difficult to fairly and accurately track the appropriate use of antibiotics, and 52% agreed with the statement that “practice-based reporting requirements for antibiotic use would be too onerous,” the researchers pointed out.

“Antibiotic resistance is an impending public health crisis. We are seeing today, as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, what our health system looks like with no or limited treatments available to tackle an outbreak. … We must all remain vigilant in combating the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria and be prudent when prescribing antibiotics,” AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, said in a written statement.

SOURCE: Zetts RM et al. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2020 July;7(7). doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofaa244.

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