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Doctors prescribe antibiotics too often

Germs that no longer benefit from antibiotics are becoming a growing problem. According to the projection for 2018, 276 patients have died in Switzerland because all agents for the treatment of infection have proved ineffective. Everyone could still live if they were treated more carefully before.

Many find that they are hardly attacked by bacteria when they have to go to the hospital for surgery. If germs come into the bloodstream, they are in mortal danger.

The World Health Organization's Expert Council on Antibiotic Resistance states: If this development is not slowed, so-called multidrug-resistant microorganisms will be the first cause of death by 2050 – with ten million deaths. For cancer, WHO expects 8.2 million worldwide.

More antibiotics in flu season – though ineffective against the virus

The fact that more and more bacteria are resistant to commercial antibiotics also leads to the fact that agents are taken unnecessarily in many cases. A report on medicines from the largest Swiss health insurance Helsinki shows: Antibiotics are more often prescribed during the flu season. Between December and March, therefore, patients take a particularly large number of broad-spectrum antibiotics, according to Helsana, suggesting that doctors prescribe these medicines for infections for which the virus is responsible – and therefore not effective.

The infectiologist Benedict Huttner of the University Hospital of Geneva, the leader of a research project on antibiotic resistance, supports this thesis. In a recent article, a lecturer describes the problem of many physicians. They're obviously not very good at understanding what patients expect of them: "So they prescribe antibiotics for a viral cold – often against better knowledge." Experts speak of "irrational regulations" in this context.

Helsinki data also show that there are major regional differences in antibiotic consumption: while in eastern Switzerland only 15 percent of policyholders received such medication, in Geneva it was 29 percent. Second result: "In western Switzerland, Valais and Ticino, wages were above the Swiss average."

These findings are in line with those of other countries. In France, twice as many antibiotics are given per capita – although local health authorities have been funding awareness campaigns for years, which they advise against.

Estimates say that up to 50 percent of prescriptions for antibiotics are unnecessary, especially for respiratory diseases, as the Helsana report shows.

Lack of knowledge among doctors

Geneva-based infectologist Huttner concludes: "Swiss doctors are often far from rational antibiotics." This is due to a lack of knowledge, but also to the fact that Switzerland has long been lacking guidance (recommendation Applying antibiotics knew. As part of National Research Project 72, which aims to reduce antibiotic resistance, Huttner is currently developing an application and program to help doctors decide whether to and to what extent to prescribe them to combat infectious diseases – in the hope that they will be able to cultivate resistant bacterial strains in the future.

Yvonne Gilli of FMH Medical Association: "The main thing is that cultural differences lead to more frequent prescribing – and the patient's attitude to the claims."

There are many situations in which you are “tipped over” as a doctor in therapy, for example, if the patient wants to travel abroad soon and therefore cannot wait for the infection to develop, so does Gilli.

To reduce unnecessary antibiotic consumption, sensitization of physicians and patients is needed – and further education of physicians locally. Gilli: "Only in this way can we control the problem of resistance."

Have Basel researchers found a solution?

In the fight against multidrug-resistant bacteria, he hopes for the first time in a decade: Basler researchers reported in the journal Nature this week about a natural antimicrobial agent from the United States. In tests, a substance called darobactin proved to be particularly effective against dangerous germs.