CIHI: overuse of antibiotics in Canada

More than 25 million courses of antibiotics prescribed in 2015

Canadian clinicians prescribe 33 per cent more antibiotics than clinicians in peer countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany, according to new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

The new data shows that more than 25 million courses of antibiotics were prescribed in Canada in 2015 – the equivalent of almost one prescription for every Canadian age 20 to 69. Every day, about 20 out of 1000 Canadians take a dose of antibiotics.

“Our data shows that there is overuse and misuse of antibiotics across the country,” says Kathleen Morris, CIHI’s vice president of research and analysis. “The unnecessary use of antibiotics can be harmful for vulnerable patients, decreases the effectiveness of antibiotics over time and puts us at larger risk of antibiotic resistance.”

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines. A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. Antibiotic resistance also leads to longer hospital stays and higher medical costs.

The total volume of antibiotics prescribed in B.C. (21 doses per 1000 population per day) is slightly higher than the national average (20.8 doses per 1000 population per day).

Dr. Wendy Levinson, chair of Choosing Wisely Canada – a national campaign launched in 2014 to help clinicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments, says the over-prescription of antibiotics affects not only Canadians, but people worldwide.

“At Choosing Wisely Canada, we’ve had the privilege of working with national societies representing more than a dozen clinical specialties to clarify when antibiotics should and should not be used,” said Dr. Levinson. “We hope to have more health care professionals and patients join this effort, but it’s clear from the numbers that there’s a lot of work ahead for all of us.”

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, all physicians in B.C. have access to ‘Bugs and Drugs,’ an antimicrobial reference guide for healthcare professionals. Educational sessions are also offered to physicians and other healthcare professionals in B.C. throughout the year.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control also supports a website – www.antibioticwise.ca – which directs the public to relevant and specific information about antibiotic stewardship and resistance.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians.

To access CIHI’s interactive tool, which includes more than 50 indicators across six dimensions of health, visit https://www.cihi.ca/en/oecd-interactive-tool-international-comparisons.

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