A new report, "When Wonder Drugs Don't Work: How Antibiotic Resistance
Threatens Children, Seniors, and the Medically Vulnerable," recently released by
Environmental Defense (www.environmentaldefense.org), highlights the
significant health risk posed by antibiotic resistant bacteria to seniors, children,
and individuals with certain medical conditions.
"Cancer patients, premature babies, HIV/AIDS patients and seniors often
depend on antibiotics for their very survival. But overuse of these drugs in
health care and agriculture threatens their effectiveness. By some estimates,
more than 70% of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are fed to healthy farm
animals, to promote slightly faster growth and to prevent disease that would
otherwise result from unsanitary conditions in factory farms," said
Environmental Defense senior attorney Karen Florini. "Antibiotics are also
overused in human medicine. Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, and
doctors and patients must immediately commit to ending antibiotic overuse in
both agriculture and medicine in order to keep these critically important drugs
"Antibiotics are life-saving wonder drugs, ranging from old familiars like
penicillin to newer drugs like Cipro. Unfortunately, these drugs are losing their
effectiveness as antibiotic resistance continues to worsen," said Dr. Tamar
Barlam, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Project at the Center for Science
in the Public Interest and co-author of the report with Florini and Katherine
Shea, M.D., M.P.H. "How well we respond to this crisis will affect lives,
especially seniors, children, and the medically vulnerable," said Dr. Barlam, who
is Board-certified in internal medicine and infectious disease.
Among the report's findings:
For physiological and lifestyle reasons, both children and seniors are more
vulnerable to bacterial illness. In addition, many drugs are approved only for use
in adults not children, and seniors have limited options because many antibiotics
can't be used due to side effects or interactions with other drugs. As antibiotic
resistance further limits the number of effective drugs, even fewer treatment
options will exist for children and seniors suffering from bacterial illness.
Antibiotics have revolutionized treatment of cancer patients, transplant patients
and other immunocompromised individuals, leading to dramatically higher
survival rates and improved quality of life. If these drugs lose their
effectiveness, the health impacts will be severe.
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