January 24th, 2008


By Marc

Antibiotic resistant bacteria is a hot topic these days. Every day seems to bring more stories, and questions are often asked about what’s being done to combat some of the drug resistant strains — the so-called superbugs.

Certainly, drug-resistant bacteria represent a significant risk to human health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , about 2 million people acquire bacterial infections in U.S. hospitals each year, and 90,000 die as a result. About 70 percent of those infections are resistant to at least one drug.

One topic being discussed has been about why more treatments aren’t available. In an October article on the subject in BusinessWeek, Catherine Arnst noted that over the past 20 years the number of new antibacterials approved by the FDA has fallen from 16 launched in 1983-87 to just 2 in the past five years. She chalks that trend up to the low financial rewards associated with developing a medicine that is used only once for a few days.

(Hmmm… I can’t really speak for other companies, but I do know that anti-infective medicines have been part of the portfolio of products manufactured by the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical companies since I joined back in 1997, and are in the current pipeline of new medicines in development.)

But while it is important that we continue to look for new treatments, medicines aren’t the only way of combating bacterial infections. When talking to my colleagues over at Ortho-McNeil, I found they had some interesting tips we could all follow to help combat the rise of antibiotic resistance:

1) Don’t take an antibiotic for viral infections like a cold or the flu

2) Discuss your symptoms fully with your doctor

3) Take the antibiotic exactly as prescribed

4) Take the entire supply of antibiotics, even if you feel better (That means you, mom and dad)

5) Don’t take old antibiotics and don’t save unused antibiotics for the next time you get sick

6) Don’t take an antibiotic that’s prescribed for someone else.

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