A local pharmacist has lent his knowledge to a statewide effort to educate medical professionals and members of the public about responsible antibiotic usage and stewardship.
Marc Meyer is a pharmacist and infection preventionist with Southwest Health Systems. He worked with a team of 20 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to draft a “playbook” on antibiotic stewardship based on Centers For Disease Control guidelines, Meyer said. Those guidelines hadn’t been updated since 2012, he said.
Right now, the medical industry is discovering that bacteria are becoming more resilient, Meyer said.
“We’re at a point in the road where we’re starting to see a lot of resistance,” he said. “One thing we can do is use antibiotics more appropriately or not use them. ... If we don’t do this, we’re going to lose antibiotics. (Bacteria) will all be resistant, and people will die from simple infections.”
According to the CDC, overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the spread of bacteria that cause colitis, a potentially life-threatening intestinal disease.
Antibiotics aren’t totally benign and they have consequences and side effects, Meyer said. But they also save lives every day, he said.
Medical professionals in the Four Corners area will work to educate people on why they should or shouldn’t be prescribed an antibiotic, Meyer said. About 65 percent of upper respiratory ailments are viral and don’t need antibiotics, he said. Doctors need to do a better job of distinguishing between viral and bacterial illnesses, and patients need to realize that there are some illnesses for which antibiotics will make no difference, he said.
“We need to tell the public that antibiotics are not always the best,” Meyer said. “Sometimes it’s best to wait.”
Some bacteria are present in the body that do no harm and cause no symptoms, Meyer said. Medical professionals need to be watchful of those and make sure they aren’t prescribing antibiotics to fight these harmless bacteria, he said.
In the past, antibiotics were prescribed for 10 to 14 days, Meyer said. Now, it’s customary to prescribe them for five to seven days, he said.
Since Southwest Memorial Hospital is a comparatively small operation, the staff has the benefit of increased communication, Meyer said. Patients get individual attention from doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other personnel, he said. Medical personnel can take the time to narrow the scope and figure out what treatment will work best for a patient, he said.
“We’re trying to change the climate,” Meyer said. “We don’t always need (antibiotics) for something.”
Several other small, rural hospitals on Colorado’s Western Slope work together since they may not have available to them resources that bigger hospitals might have, he said.
Since most of the people who work at the hospital are employees of Southwest Health Systems, the company has a chance to control antibiotic stewardship across multiple disciplines of healthcare, Meyer said.
“We have a unique opportunity here in Montezuma County,” Meyer said. “We have a chance to do that in all these areas and see how it impacts the community. From the CDC’s standpoint, that’s why they’re excited about what we’re doing in the Four Corners, to see how this works in a closed setting without a lot of outside input.”