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Kentucky is first in nation for use of antibiotics, new awareness campaign aims to curb inappropriate use


Kentucky has the highest rate of antibiotic use in the United States, and the University of Louisville School of Medicine is trying to do something about it.

The school’s Department of Pediatrics has mounted a campaign to highlight the need for education and awareness on antibiotic overuse in Kentucky, and to reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics in the state.

“Although antibiotics are important life-saving drugs that treat bacterial infections – including strep throat and urinary tract infections – their overuse can lead to drug resistance, which occurs when antibiotics no longer cure infections that they should treat,” Bethany Wattles, a clinical pharmacist in the pediatrics department, said in a U of L news release.

“If we continue to overuse antibiotics, even minor infections will become untreatable. This is a serious public health threat,” Wattles said. “To combat the spread of antibiotic resistance, we must use antibiotics only when necessary.”

The Kentucky Antibiotic Awareness campaign to health-care providers and the public is led by the department’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, with support from the state Department of Medicaid Services, which finances health care for almost one-third of Kentuckians.

U of L researchers examined antibiotic prescriptions for Kentucky children on Medicaid and found that the rate of antibiotic use has been especially high in Eastern Kentucky. In some areas, children are receiving three times more antibiotic prescriptions than the national average.

“Antibiotics are most frequently used for upper respiratory infections, many of which are caused by viruses that antibiotics do not kill,” the U of L release said. “The majority of antibiotic prescribing is done in outpatient settings, which include medical offices, urgent care facilities, retail clinics and emergency departments. Wattles said 30 to 50 percent of this antibiotic use is estimated to be inappropriate.

“When antibiotics are prescribed, it is important to take them as instructed; do not share the medicine with others or save for later use,” the release says.

The campaign is on Facebook and Twitter. Health-care providers are encouraged to join the KAA Listserv for newsletter updates, or email KYAntibx@louisville.edu with questions and suggestions.

From Kentucky Health News


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