The Adult in the Exam Room

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Please don’t let me change your mind about taking a round of antibiotics, but do be prudent in your decision, because it may be your decision soon. Sometimes, we need antibiotics and in those cases, they can be lifesaving. But antibiotic abuse by our healthcare providers is a real problem and it is getting worse! For decades I have been reading medical journals warning doctors that antibiotics are being grossly overprescribed.

These warnings fall on deaf ears. Is shareholders profit more valuable to drug makers than patients? Medical schools continue to teach students that most all infections warrant antibiotics. Although that is false, millions of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written annually. Antibiotics should only be prescribed for unrelenting bacterial infections. Although most medical experts disagree with me, I believe that many, if not most infections we humans get are not bacterial infections at all, rather viral or fungal infections. Antibiotics are valueless for viral infections and they can ignite fungal infections. Why aren’t our brightest and best leaning this in their training?

A recent headline in Pharmacy Practice News warns: Stop Waiting on the World to Change: Guiding Behavior To Improve Antibiotic Stewardship. In the article, they state if doctors don’t stop prescribing antibiotics erroneously, by 2050, an estimated 10,000,000 deaths will happen globally, just due to antibiotic resistance. To me, continue the misuse of antibiotics is absolutely heinous, yet it continues and it will continue. Here is one reason that this insanity may persist. In 1999, The Mayo Clinic published that 96% of chronic sinusitis sufferers had fungal, not bacterial infections. That was almost 20 years ago, yet antibiotics continue to be handed out to chronic sinusitis sufferers like candy on Halloween! Today, according to this article, 94% of all antibiotics prescribed for chronic sinusitis are erroneous. Why is no one listening? It is not ignorance. These pleas to stop abusing antibiotics and the patients that get them are published in respected medical journals. What, then? Forget science, perhaps our answer lies in mathematics!

About 30,000,000 Americans have chronic sinusitis. Let’s say that 50% of them go to a doctor for treatment each year. Fifteen million doctor visits at $100 each, equals $1,500,000,000 (one billion, five hundred million dollars). Now, let’s say that 75% of those get a prescribed antibiotic costing $100. Doctors and shareholders earn $150,000,000,000 (one hundred and fifty billion dollars) just for the misuse of antibiotics for chronic sinusitis. Many, many other infections are not bacterial, yet the patients always seem to get antibiotics. Keep in mind that patients who take antibiotics too frequently are vulnerable to many more progressive illnesses, including gut diseases and even cancer!

Unfortunately, it is left to us, the people, to demand that any doctor handing us an antibiotic has thoroughly ruled out virus, yeast, and fungus as the cause of our infection. To slow antibiotic abuse, we must become the adult in the exam rooms.

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