Iowa PIRG and Consumers Union
A pillar of modern medicine, antibiotics save millions of lives each year. Due to their overuse, however, bacteria that have become immune to these drugs are spreading. While scientists have recognized this potential for decades, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), this phenomenon “has been vastly accelerated and amplified by a number of human practices, human behaviours, and policy failures” and “collectively, the world has failed to handle these fragile cures with appropriate care.”
In September 2014, the Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted an online survey of 500 family practice and internal medicine physicians in the U.S. who regularly prescribe antibiotics, using a random sample drawn from a panel of family care and internal medicine doctors managed by M3 Global Research.
The primary objectives of this survey were to: (1) gauge doctors’ concerns about multi-drug resistant bacterial infections as a growing problem; (2) find out if doctors are taking actions that will help reduce this problem; and (3) hear doctors’ views on administering antibiotics to livestock. Most (378) of the surveyed doctors worked in an outpatient setting primarily, and 22% (108) worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Another 3 percent (14) of the surveyed doctors worked in an inpatient setting primarily.
The survey results paint a grim picture of the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections that doctors encounter in their patients. The overwhelming majority (85%) of surveyed doctors reported that one or more of their patients had been diagnosed with a presumed or confirmed case of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in the past twelve months. Of those, 35% had a patient either die or suffer significant complications as a result of the illness.
Recognizing the severity and frequency of these illnesses in their patients, the vast majority of doctors (97%) expressed concern about the growing problem of multi-drug resistant infections and were taking a series of measures in their own practices to minimize the problem of antibiotic resistance. They are also troubled by antibiotic use in the food animal sector, with 93% expressing concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities on healthy animals in order to promote growth and prevent disease.