Why it’s so hard to make a dent in the fight against overuse of antibiotics

Two reports out this week are glaring contributions to help explain why the fight against the overuse of antibiotics, which is arguably one of the three biggest health threats on the planet (for me, the only ones rivaling this are the quickly-rising number of obese people around the globe as well as the depressingly low use of life-saving vaccines – I did say this was arguable, right?).

The first is a study from Tennessee which found that fewer than 2 % of the doctors in that state account for an astounding 25 % of all antibiotic prescriptions, which means you only need a few docs in every locale to significantly subvert the fight against antibiotic use.

And who are these docs?

The most likely suspects, I’d say: General pediatricians who graduated before 2000; in other words, a small band of older docs who fail to – or worse, refuse to – keep up to the most current standards.

The second study came from China and found that out of a total of 1,106 pharmacies which were visited by research assistants for this study, antibiotics could be obtained without a prescription in over 85 % of them.

Only roughly 15 % of pharmacies were honest enough to say that a prescription was needed or that the situation described by the research assistant didn’t warrant an antibiotic.

And China is just one country where this kind of antibiotic-dispensing is common if not routine.

Depressing, for sure, but . . . we should still all be doing all we can to cut down our own use of antibiotics – every little bit can only help, after all – but obviously, this is gonna be one hell of a long-term difficult fight.