NMMC launches plan to optimize antibiotic use

FORT KENT, Maine –Physicians are under a great deal of pressure to prescribe antibiotics, what with the heavy emphasis in the media on encouraging the public to ask their physicians for certain medications. However, their misuse can contribute to the rise of drug-resistant infections, or superbugs.

Dustin Butler, PharmD and pharmacy supervisor at Northern Maine Medical Center, educates a client about the appropriate use of antibiotics.

Dustin Butler, PharmD and pharmacy supervisor at Northern Maine Medical Center, educates a client about the appropriate use of antibiotics.

Northern Maine Medical Center launched an antibiotic stewardship program in June and is committed to its success, which will be demonstrated in monitoring and reporting of regional antibiotic usage trends.

NMMC began to develop an antibiotic stewardship program in 2015. Utilizing assessment tools developed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and based on existing treatment guidelines, a special NMMC Antibiotic Stewardship Committee explored opportunities for improving antibiotic use at the local level.

Dr. Erik St. Pierre, Emergency Department medical director and committee chairperson, said, “The purpose of our antibiotic stewardship program is to decrease the use of antibiotics, decrease resistance of bacteria to antibiotics and ultimately improve patient care.”

In an interview for WAGM-TV’s Medical Monday, he also said, “The development of superbugs is occurring at a faster rate than we can develop new antibiotics and if we do not take action, more patients will develop infections that cannot be treated.”

Dustin Butler, PharmD, NMMC’s pharmacy supervisor, said, “By 2050, more people will die from superbugs than from cancer.”

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the ability of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. According to the Association for Practitioners in Infection Control (APIC), even though antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections, 50 million Americans are prescribed antibiotics for these conditions. As a result of today’s emergence of drug resistance in bacteria, drug choices for the treatment of many bacterial infections is becoming increasingly limited, and in some cases, nonexistent.

APIC reports that misuse and overuse of antimicrobials is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Infectious organisms adapt to the antimicrobials designed to kill them, making the drugs ineffective. People infected with antimicrobial-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer, more expensive hospital stays, and may be more likely to die as a result of an infection.

The implementation of an antibiotic stewardship program is a means to guide the prescribing of antibiotics and to promote their appropriate use, improve patient outcomes, reduce microbial resistance, and decrease the spread of infections caused by multidrug-resistant organisms. Implementation of an antibiotic stewardship program is a commitment to always use antibiotics appropriately and safely—to use the right antibiotic at the right time at the right dose for the right duration.

NMMC’s Antibiotic Stewardship Committee has developed protocols to assist the medical staff with evidence-based prescribing guidelines. Dr. Christina Freston, NMMC family practitioner and obstetrics physician, said that patient education is part of the stewardship protocol to help educate the public about their role in reducing the use of antibiotics.

Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have been saving the lives of millions of people around the world. Antibiotics have been a critical tool used to treat bacterial infections, but using antibiotics incorrectly can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections. Each year in the United States, at least two million people get serious infections with bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics designed to treat those infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that drug-resistant bacteria cause two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.

To help address this serious health issue, President Barack Obama issued The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria,designed to guide action by public health, healthcare, and veterinary partners in a common effort to address urgent and serious drug-resistant threats that affect people in the U.S. and around the world. The primary objective is to slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections.

The public can also help fight antibiotic resistance by: taking antibiotics exactly as instructed, taking only prescribed for yourself, not saving antibiotics for a future illness or sharing them with others, and not pressuring your healthcare provider to prescribe an antibiotic.

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