Education effort seeks to curb misuse of antibiotics

WASHINGTON: The Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (CAQH), a nonprofit alliance of US health plans and networks, with Weber Shandwick has launched an initiative to promote appropriate use of antibiotics. The effort, Save Antibiotic Strength (SAS), accounts for 20% of WS' $1.7 million annual contract with CAQH.

WASHINGTON: The Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (CAQH), a nonprofit alliance of US health plans and networks, with Weber Shandwick has launched an initiative to promote appropriate use of antibiotics. The effort, Save Antibiotic Strength (SAS), accounts for 20% of WS' $1.7 million annual contract with CAQH.

The mission of SAS, according to Laura Aiuppa, project director for CAQH, is to facilitate communication about antibiotics between patients and doctors. "DTC advertising and medical information from the internet have resulted in patients bringing their understanding of treatments into doctors' offices," explained Aiuppa. "We want to educate consumers to decrease the pressure physicians sometimes feel to prescribe antibiotics when it is not necessary."

SAS is being rolled out in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Virginia, and California. CAQH and WS are providing healthcare providers with materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about antibiotic use to educators and employers. Local and national media relations efforts are also underway to reach consumers.

"We need to keep this in front of the media so consumers see that antibiotic misuse continues to be a public-health threat," said Todd Matthews, account supervisor from WS. "From there, they will learn what actually constitutes misuse."

A CAQH survey found that one-third of Americans falsely believe antibiotics are effective for treating viral illnesses, such as cold and flu. The research also told that patients often don't finish their prescriptions.

Using antibiotics incorrectly can cause bacteria to develop a resistance to the drugs. The World Health Organization reports that two Americans die every hour from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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