St. John Valley

Hospital urges public to use caution with antibiotics

FORT KENT, Maine — According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and medical development today. Misuse of antibiotics, along with global travel and antibiotic use in animal feed, have all contributed to antibiotic resistance and the emergence of superbugs both locally and internationally.

In response to the global threat, Northern Maine Medical Center (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, NMMC’s 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. The development of superbugs is occurring at a faster rate than we can develop new antibiotics and if we do not take action now, more patients will develop infections that cannot be treated.”

NMMC’s antibiotic stewardship committee has developed protocols to assist the medical staff with evidence-based prescribing guidelines. Dustin Butler, PharmD, NMMC’s pharmacy supervisor said, “By 2050 more people will die from superbugs than from cancer.”

Dr. Christina Freston, NMMC family practitioner and obstetrics physician, said patient education is part of the stewardship protocol to help educate the public about their role in reducing the use of antibiotics. Due to heavy emphasis in the media encouraging the public to ask their physicians for certain medications, hospital staff say there is a great deal of pressure on physicians to prescribe antibiotics.

In an effort to create a greater awareness in the public sector about the patient role in proper antibiotic use, NMMC is also developing an educational component to the antibiotic stewardship program. According to St. Pierre, the goals of NMMC’s Antibiotic Stewardship Program are to: create standardized guidelines on how to treat common infections that all NMMC providers can follow based on the most current evidenced based literature, provide education to providers, healthcare workers, patients and the public on antibiotic stewardship, develop a monitoring program to track compliance and patient outcomes in order to improve quality healthcare, decrease antibiotic resistance and the development of “superbugs”, and reduce healthcare costs.

NMMC launched the stewardship program in June and is committed to its success, which will be demonstrated in the quality monitoring and reporting of antibiotic usage trends at the local level.

According to WHO, the world urgently needs to change the way it prescribes and uses antibiotics. Even if new medicines are developed, without behavior change, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat. Behavior changes must also include actions to reduce the spread of infections through vaccination, hand washing, practicing safer sex and good food hygiene. WHO is leading a global, multi-year campaign with the theme “Antibiotics: Handle with care”.

For more information on how the public can become more informed and support these efforts, go to

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