FDA Urges 'Smart' Antibiotic Use

According to the Food and Drug Administration, millions of antibiotics will be prescribed this year. Antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial infections; however, they are commonly over-prescribed. Patients sometimes ask their health care professional to prescribe antibiotic drugs for viral infections, like the common cold, despite the fact that they will not work and may lead to potentially harmful side effects. The misuse of antibiotics has contributed to one of the world's most pressing public health problems today, antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs.

Last week, FDA teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health care professional, government, academic, international, and industry partners to support Get Smart About Antibiotics Week (Nov. 15-21) as part of a joint effort to encourage the appropriate use of antibiotics.

When it comes to proper use, FDA recommends the following:

  • Don't skip doses and take your medicine as prescribed. Antibiotics are most effective when taken as prescribed.
  • Don't save antibiotics. The drug is meant for a particular infection at that time. Don’t use leftover medicine. Taking the wrong drug can delay the appropriate treatment and your infection might get worse.
  • Don't take antibiotics prescribed for others. Only a health care professional can determine the right treatment for your infection.

"Helping the public understand the implications of inappropriate antibiotic use is an important step in slowing the spread of resistance to antibiotic drugs," said Edward Cox, M.D., M.P.H, director for the Office of Antimicrobial Products in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "While there are research efforts underway to develop new antibiotics for treating patients with bacterial infections, antibiotic resistance will always be a challenge, and we will always need to use these medicines responsibly."

By using antibiotic drugs appropriately and carefully, health care professionals and consumers can help limit the spread of antibiotic resistance, so that these drugs are only used to treat people with bacterial infections who need them the most.

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