One of the major headaches facing the medical profession is the increase in the numbers of people immune to antibiotics. A relatively trivial infection can prove fatal if the drugs administered to combat it don’t work.
Over the last two years, a new initiative involving 21 hospitals across Denmark has been attempting to address the problem by cutting down the number of antibiotics prescribed. Over-prescription is one of the main causes of immunity.
Narrowing the focus
One of the involved hospitals is Viborg. When it comes to the most important antibiotics, it has managed to cut its usage by between 25 and 30 percent.
“There has been a culture here whereby we’ve been over-treating people and treating people with antibiotics too broadly,” Lone Hede, the leader of the project, told DR Nyheder.
During the project, doctors have been able to replace broad-spectrum antibiotics with a more focused treatment because there has been more emphasis on diagnosing precisely which infection a patient has.
“We have to learn to wait until we have thoroughly investigated so we know exactly which bacteria we’re talking about,” said Hede.
More emphasis on the causes
Copenhagen’s Rigshospital has been able to reduce the use of antibiotics by between 10 to 50 percent by looking into the causes of a patient’s infection more thoroughly.
“It has been a great success. I was a bit sceptical to start with because I thought it was a rather large mouthful to manage in two years,” Professor Christian Backer Mogensen, the chair of the project, told DR Nyheder.
“We can see there has been a fall in our use of antibiotics and it is very important for the patients of tomorrow to know that we have our antibiotic usage in Denmark under control.”
No resting on laurels
Mogensen also believes it is possible to cut usage even more, and other departments should join the project in order to reduce antibiotic resistance still further.
If nothing is done “people will get ill more often and the risk of dying from one of the infectious diseases, which we thought we had under control, will increase”, warned Mogensen.
Now that the project has run its course it will be the responsibility of the health authorities around the country to carry it on.