Growing Antibiotic Shortage
Is a Deadly Threat
The hospitals in our country are a battlefield.
The enemy? Drug-resistant bacteria. The victims? Patients who, in many cases, would be well on their way to recovery.
Every year more people die from hospital-acquired infections than die in car crashes. More people die from these nasty bugs than from AIDS or in-home fires. Drug-resistant bugs kill more people than criminals do. In fact, drug-resistant infections originating in hospitals kill more people than all these things combined. They claim 2,000 American lives a week!
And those 100,000+ are just the annual deaths. Every year millions more victims fight and survive these infections – at great cost and suffering.
Things have gotten so bad that during one drug-resistant bacterial outbreak in 2011, doctors from the National Institutes of Health ran out of conventional options to fight the infection. None of the antibiotics they tried worked.
They had to fall back on colistin, a decades-old drug that is rarely used for anything because it causes kidney damage.
Critical for Good Healthcare
We’ll be the first to tell you that antibiotics are overused – way overused. People still take them for the sniffles and other minor conditions, and they shouldn’t.
But, effective antibiotics are critical to our healthcare system. Some conditions and infections will kill you without antibiotics, but become a simple thing to treat when these drugs are readily available.
As long as the drugs are effective. Unfortunately, effective antibiotics are no longer a guarantee.
We’ve overused and misused these drugs to the point that many infections no longer respond to them. For a long time, if an infection resisted the medicine your doctor prescribed, he could just pick a different, stronger antibiotic, and eventually he’d find one that would work.
But we’re running out of options. There are infections today that no longer respond to conventional drugs. Sixty percent of infectious disease specialists report seeing infections that do not respond to any of the available antibiotics!
And drug companies aren’t making new strains of these crucial drugs to keep pace with the developing superbugs.
Drug Companies Are Abandoning
Many drug companies no longer work on antibiotic research at all. Currently only one third of the major drug companies in America are actively pursuing new strains of antibiotics. Since 1968, drug companies have only introduced two new categories of antibiotics to the market.
Why, when antibiotics are so important, do drug companies continue to neglect them?
One reason is that drug companies make so much more from lifestyle drugs – drugs that counter depression, treat impotence, or help with weight loss, for example. These are drugs that people are likely to be on for a long time, if not the rest of their lives.
A second big reason is that government red tape makes it so difficult and so costly to get a new antibiotic approved that it doesn’t seem worth the risk. Researching and developing a new antibiotic is expensive. Really expensive. Drug companies don’t want to take on that risk when they know approval is far from a sure thing.
Their fears are well founded. Currently the FDA is very reluctant to approve new antibiotics because of safety concerns. Our government bureaucrats have become so risk adverse that they’re leaving us vulnerable to even bigger risks.
Knowing what we know about drug-resistant superbugs, if we had one, we’d be willing to consider a new antibiotic even if it had some unpleasant side effects. Unfortunately, the FDA prevents us from having that option in the name of keeping us “safe.”
The good news is you’re not helpless in this battle. You can do several things that will protect you from superbugs.
First, don’t be part of the problem. Don’t overuse antibiotics.
Antibiotics don’t treat the viruses that cause most common illnesses. And, antibiotics have unpleasant short-term and long-term health risks. They temporarily wipe out your immune system making you more vulnerable to viruses and new infections.
Unless you have an obvious, unresponsive infection, most illnesses respond well to bed rest.
If you have a wound that won’t heal or that gets red and inflamed, then you may need an antibiotic. If you have a prolonged sore throat with white patches, then you may have a bacterial infection that needs antibiotics. If you’re running a low-grade fever (about 100 degrees) that’s persistent, you may have an infection that needs antibiotics. In these situations, talk to your doctor about whether or not antibiotics make sense.
If you do take antibiotics, take the full course. Don’t stop when your symptoms go away. If you don’t take the full course, you actually help bacteria develop drug resistance.
Second, take care of your health. Avoid getting sick by washing your hands often as well as using hand sanitizer while on the go (especially during cold and flu season). Give your immune system good support
by eating good foods, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and taking vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, selenium, and zinc.
Finally, if you do have to go into the hospital, talk to your care providers about what they do for infection control. Hospitals that routinely practice anti-infection procedures and use checklists to ensure compliance have been shown to cut infections by up to 67 percent. Ask to see their checklist. If they can’t show you a checklist meant to keep everything clean and prevent hospital-borne infections, consider choosing another hospital.
By being proactive, you can reduce the risk that a drug-resistant hospital-borne infection will bring this battle home to you.