For millions of Americans, antibiotics are a part of everyday life. They are commonly prescribed and essential in battling bacterial infections, if used properly.
And that’s the issue. According to a national survey by the University of Michigan, many older Americans don’t use antibiotics the way they were prescribed. Among the biggest findings were that many patients take drugs without first talking to a health care professional, take meds prescribed for other people or don’t take all that are prescribed to them.
The results raise concerns among health leaders trying to stem the rising tide of antibiotic resistance, which is weakening the drugs’ effectiveness. It is also leading to the evolution of so-called “superbugs,’’ strains of bacteria unaffected by commonly used medications.
There were bright spots in the survey of more than 2,000 people ages 50 to 80. Almost all said they are cautious about using antibiotics, and 89% agreed that overusing drugs can lead to the medications not working effectively the next time they are needed.
The survey highlighted an area of concern for physicians: Patients who decide for themselves when and how to use the prescriptions. Nearly 20% said they took their own leftover meds, an indication that they didn’t use all of the prescribed dosage, and they did so without checking with their provider. A smaller percentage said they took someone else’s medication, raising red flags about people who may be taking drugs of the wrong dosage or that can interact with their other medications.
The bottom line: Improved patient education is needed to ensure the proper use of these important medications.