Be antibiotics aware: The risk of medication misuse

Each November, Antibiotics Awareness Week highlights the importance of appropriate antibiotic use to prevent drug-resistant infections, which increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas will join other health care networks and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Nov. 18-24 to take part in Antibiotic Awareness Week. With the lingering impacts of COVID-19, FirstHealth staff aim to re-emphasize safe antibiotic use and medication documentation.

Between March and October of 2020, 80 percent of patients hospitalized around the U.S. with COVID-19 received an antibiotic, according to the CDC. This uptick in antibiotic use was largely due to the unknown nature of the COVID virus and patients having lung inflammation that resembled bacterial pneumonia. Additionally, drug-resistant infections in hospitals increased by 15 percent in 2020.

FirstHealth takes a patient-focused approach to ensure safe antibiotic use across its hospitals and clinics. The recent addition of Allison Cid, PharmD, an outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy (OPAT) pharmacist to the FirstHealth Infectious Diseases clinic will help promote appropriate antibiotic use in an outpatient setting. Cid will coordinate IV antibiotics in home care settings and monitor medication levels, as well as address any lab issues patients experience.

During this year’s awareness week, staff are also focused on improving assessment and documentation of medication allergies to promote safe antibiotic use for patients.

Heather Gibson, PharmD, the Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist at Moore Regional Hospital said the setbacks caused by COVID-19 can be overcome by identifying gaps and prescribing the right medication for individuals.

“Antibiotics do not treat viruses, like the flu or COVID, so its important to prescribe antibiotics when needed to treat certain infections caused by bacteria,” she said. “During Antibiotics Awareness Week, we also push to get patient allergy profiles updated so providers can avoid prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics, which can lead to increased risk of Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) and increased risk of drug resistant infections.”

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to public health. When resistance happens in patients, antibiotics may not be able to fight bacteria and the infection could continue to spread. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. According to the CDC, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.

Jolena Allred, DNP, FNP-BC, with FirstHealth Family Medicine, Seven Lakes said patients can reduce their risk of drug-resistant infections by taking their medication as prescribed and communicating any side effects with their health care provider.

“Detailed documentation helps ensure the right medication will be chosen the next time the patient has an infection,” Allred said. “With patient and provider awareness and education we can regain the progress we lost during the pandemic. The right drug, dose and duration all make a difference.”

To learn more about FirstHealth, visit

Photo: Heather Gibson. Photo provided.

Written by Sandhills Sentinel contributor Haley Ray, FirstHealth of the Carolinas.

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