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Letter: Overuse of antibiotics is on medical association’s radar

The provincial government is proposing changes to regulations that would allow beneficiaries of the New Brunswick Prescription Drug Program to be reimbursed for prescriptions filled out of the province.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association says it’s well aware of the overuse of antibiotics in this province. — SaltWire file photo

In an editorial published in The Telegram on March 29 (“Antibiotic alert”), Health Minister Dr. John Haggie was quoted as saying when it comes to the need to reduce the overuse of antibiotics in this province “I’m not aware it’s on the (Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association’s) radar screen.”

As president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA), I can assure patients that it is.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of antibiotic prescribing in the country, and the potential harms associated with inappropriate antibiotic use is a serious concern for physicians in the province. The overuse of antibiotics is leading to a worldwide increase in drug-resistant bacteria, which threatens our ability to treat common infectious diseases.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of antibiotic prescribing in the country and the potential harms associated with inappropriate antibiotic use is a serious concern for physicians in the province. The overuse of antibiotics is leading to a world-wide increase in drug-resistant bacteria, which threatens our ability to treat common infectious diseases.

The NLMA is a partner of Choosing Wisely Canada (CWC) — a national campaign that helps physicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments. CWC incorporates the advice of national medical specialty societies to develop recommendations for physicians, other health-care providers and patients on when certain treatments may not be necessary and should be questioned. There are more than 20 CWC recommendations on when antibiotics should not be prescribed and when inappropriate use could actually result in patient harm.

In 2016, the NLMA entered into a partnership with Quality of Care NL/Choosing Wisely NL, which is administered by Memorial University’s faculty of medicine program. Choosing Wisely NL connects practicing NLMA members in the province to information about their personal prescribing patterns and ordering data, and provides them with the best-practice recommendations from Choosing Wisely Canada.

As physicians, we want what is best for our patients. We appreciate that more work is needed to increase awareness about appropriate antibiotic use among both patients and prescribers. Following Dr. Haggie’s remarks to the media about his concerns about antibiotic overuse, the NLMA wrote to the minister requesting a meeting to discuss this matter at his earliest convenience.

Tackling this issue will require a joint effort from multiple stakeholders and the NLMA is eager to work with the Department of Health and Community Services to identify ways we can collaborate to address the overuse of antibiotics in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Lynn Dwyer, family physician

President, Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association

St. John’s

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