Fagan discusses effort to combat antibiotic resistance

Published 7:04 pm Thursday, September 27, 2018

VALLEY — For many people, according to Dr. David Fagan of East Alabama Medical Center in Valley, getting antibiotics can be all too commonplace. To talk about the overuse of antibiotics and the issue of antibiotic resistance that they cause, Fagan was at the West Point Rotary club meeting Thursday.

Unlike when he started working as a doctor in the 1980s, he says that more and more people are seeking prescriptions for issues and conditions that could be solved on their own.

Because of the overuse of these antibiotics, the bacteria they are designed to treat are starting to mutate in a way where they can withstand them, making them harder to stop and worse on the entire population as a whole. According to the Center for Disease Control, at least 2 million people in the US get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and 23,000 of those people die.

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Fagan and his practice hope to combat that resistance through information and education.

“What we plan to do is, beginning in late October and continuing through the winter months is we are starting a program in our office to raise antibiotic awareness,” he said. “To educate our patients, to educate our providers and to educate our community on the proper use of antibiotics.”

Fagan asked the Rotarians to give a show of hands if they ever went to the doctor as a child for things like a cold or an ear infection. With the room showing handless, he used that to point out how that, with all the incredible advanced in science and medicine in the last 30 years, there has also been an increase in people seeking unneeded medical help.

He cited a study done this year by the Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA. The study, he said, looked at prescribing practices for viral infections in different medical facilities like urgent care, emergency rooms and quick-clinics.

It is bacterial infections, not viral, that are appropriately treated with antibiotics.

The JAMA study found that urgent care facilities got it wrong 45 percent of the time, emergency rooms 24 percent, physicians’ offices 17 and retail clinics — think CVS — the lowest with 14 percent.

He also said he did a study of his own office and found that only 10.5 of viral infections during the last cold and flu season were treated with antibiotics.

As it turns out, taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed can be detrimental to the health of individuals and, in the case of antibiotic resistance, the population as a whole. Fagan said that is what he and his practice are trying to do with their information campaign, to keep people aware that antibiotics aren’t always the answer.

“Don’t get me wrong, antibiotics are good,” Fagan assured the room. “I love antibiotics. I take them, I prescribe them a lot and when you need an antibiotic, you should take an antibiotic. They save lives, and they are good, but appropriate use of them is very important.”