It’s no secret that Newfoundland and Labrador is the best of the worst when it comes to antibiotic prescribing in Canada.
Prescribing rates in the province are much higher than the national average, and those rates pose a considerable public health risk. Overuse of antibiotics leads to the development of resistant bacteria, which can mean serious illnesses and infections that are harder to fight.
When Antibiotics Fail, a report released on Nov. 12 by the Council of Canadian Academies, examines the current and future impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Canada.
The key findings of the report are alarming: approximately 5,400 deaths across Canada were directly attributed to AMR in 2018, and with resistance rates predicted to rise from 26 per cent in 2018 to 40 per cent or higher by 2050, that number could skyrocket to 396,000 Canadian lives lost annually.
World Antibiotic Awareness Week
The World Health Organization (WHO) calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” To combat the rise of resistant bacteria, the WHO has declared Nov. 18-24 World Antibiotic Awareness Week to increase awareness of the problem.
Quality of Care N.L. will be carrying on the fight in this province at the Antibiotics FutureForum, to be held at the Faculty of Medicine on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, will be joined by Dr. John Haggie, minister, Health and Community Services, and Dr. Margaret Steele, dean, Faculty of Medicine, in a public discussion about AMR in order to empower not only providers, but also patients, in curbing overuse.
Physicians and other health-care providers have also been invited to an accredited workshop on reducing antimicrobial use in community practice.
Reduction in prescriptions
Since 2016 Quality of Care N.L. has been working in partnership with Choosing Wisely Canada to promote guidelines and recommendations on the appropriate use of antibiotics, including an annual public awareness campaign about the potential harms of overuse, and providing personal ordering data to physicians and nurse practitioners on their antibiotic prescribing patterns.
These efforts seem to be paying off. Quality of Care N.L. is analyzing data from the Pharmacy Network, which represents all antibiotic prescriptions in communities across the province. In 2018-19, there was a 5.2 per cent reduction of all oral antibiotic prescriptions over the previous year.
In fact, the latest data shows a decrease across the board. Family physicians (including some emergency department physicians), nurse practitioners and dentists in the province all showed decreases in the number of antibiotics they prescribed in the last year.
“Antibiotics won’t cure the common cold or flu.”
Dr. Peter Daley, infectious diseases physician, Faculty of Medicine, and co-chair of a provincial antimicrobial stewardship committee, says we all have a role to play when it comes to reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics.
“Not only are we working collectively to reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed by clinicians in the province, but we also want to share information with the public so that everyone understands that antibiotics won’t cure the common cold or flu, which are viral infections,” he said.
The latest data analysis by Quality of Care N.L. showed that prescription rates in Newfoundland and Labrador decreased from 823 per 1,000 residents in 2017-18 to 786 per 1,000 residents in 2018-19.
“It’s good news that we are seeing a decrease in prescription rates across Newfoundland and Labrador, but we have the highest rates in the country and still have a long way to go,” added Dr. Daley.
The Antibiotics FutureForum begins at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20, in the Faculty of Medicine atrium. Attendees will learn more about antimicrobial resistance and how the threat of superbugs affects us all.
Quality of Care N.L. will be joined by Dr. Wade Locke and Dr. Lynn Gambin from Memorial’s Collaborative Applied Research in Economics initiative for a discussion about improving the value of the health-care system in Newfoundland and Labrador.
There will also be a panel of health-care providers and patients on the challenges they face when it comes to reducing antimicrobial use in the community.
This event is free and open to anyone who wishes to attend. You can see a full list of the presenters and the agenda here.
Quality of Care N.L. works to improve the quality of care patients receive in our province by facilitating change to ensure that the right treatment, gets to the right patient, at the right time. Quality of Care N.L. is proud to partner with Choosing Wisely Canada to enable the promotion of established national guidelines and recommendations that cross all disciplines to support the reduction of low-value health care, including unnecessary tests and treatments, particularly where harms outweigh benefits. This work is carried out by Quality of Care N.L. on behalf of Choosing Wisely N.L.