Promoting the Effective, Responsible Use of Antibiotics

“If we take immediate national action, we can prevent more than 600,000 antibiotic-resistant and C. diff infections, prevent 37,000 deaths over five years, and also avert 7.7 billion dollars of direct medical costs
due to these infections.”

—Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the crisis of antibiotic resistance and clostridium difficile infections. We are working closely with the CDC to address this global issue.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they were first prescribed nearly 75 years ago.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they were first prescribed nearly 75 years ago. But unrestrained use of the drugs in humans and animals has also led to unexpected and dangerous consequences—breeding dangerous bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Christian Lillis (sitting) and his brother, Liam, outside their family home in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a picture of their mother, Peggy. She died within 10 days of taking the antibiotic clindamycin. It was prescribed by her dentist after a routine root canal. The antibiotic killed off the “good” bacteria in her stomach, which allowed clostridium difficile bacteria to cause an infection that spread throughout her body.

This year we launched a three-part investigative series on antibiotic resistance, including the rise of superbugs, hospital infections, and antibiotics in our meat supply. Our reporting and hospital Ratings highlight real people and places, including Peggy Lillis, who died from a serious infection within 10 days of taking an antibiotic. That’s why we continue our work to get health care providers to stop over-prescribing, hospitals to improve infection control, and large agricultural producers to stop feeding antibiotics to healthy animals.

We’ve highlighted the issue of antibiotic overuse for many years, especially through our Safe Patient Project, Choosing Wisely work, and ongoing testing of bacteria in meat for antibiotic resistance. To combat the growing problem, we kicked off an initiative with our President and CEO Marta Tellado participating in the White House National Summit on Antibiotic Stewardship. Consumer Reports Board Chair Diane Archer also moderated a panel on antibiotic overuse at Spotlight Health at the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival. The conversation continues through bilingual tweet chats (#adiossuperbacterias and #slamsuperbugs) and collaborations with partners like the CDC.

2.25
million+

Number of people sickened each year by unrestrained use of antibiotics.

Alicia Cole is one of our Safe Patient Project advocates (shown here speaking with nursing students on infection prevention). She became a fierce advocate after contracting an infection in 2006 following routine surgery, which turned into a several-year-long battle for her life. She was recently appointed to the newly created Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

41%

Percentage of adults who had not even heard of antibiotic resistance, according to a nationally representative survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

What’s next?

We’re pressing on all fronts to ban antibiotics for disease prevention in animals, urging hospitals and doctors to adopt strong antibiotic stewardship programs and immediately disclose outbreaks, and educating consumers on responsible antibiotic use. We support legislation that would end the use of antibiotics on healthy livestock.

41%

Percentage of adults who had not even heard of antibiotic resistance, according to a nationally representative survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Safeguarding the Food We Eat

“We are going to have food justice, we are going to have food safety, and we are going to have fair food.”

—Dolores Huerta, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and co-founder of United Farm Workers. Award-winning labor leader Dolores was the distinguished guest at our “Farmworkers and Fair Conditions” panel at an event last fall in San Francisco.

Every year 48 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illness.

Every year 48 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illness. To address the root causes of the problems plaguing our food system and promote a safe path forward, in 2012 we launched the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. The Center had a banner year this year—putting out more than a dozen scientific reports on issues ranging from mercury in fish to arsenic in rice to shrimp and beef contamination. One of the largest studies was an analysis of the government’s pesticides data, which we translated into an interactive pesticides guide highlighting the best fruit and vegetable choices for your health and the environment.

Our research has found that almost nine in ten consumers think it is critical to reduce pesticide exposure and support fair working conditions. We can all help break the pesticide cycle by buying food grown organically without the use of industrial and toxic pesticides, which will help create a healthier food system.

A key part of advancing a healthier, more sustainable food system is promoting truth and transparency in labeling. We convened a public event in San Francisco last fall and invited some of the country’s leaders on food justice and sustainability to talk about meaningful labels in the marketplace and the underlying practices they are promoting. The conference was part of our “Ban the Natural Label” effort to rid the market of misleading labels so that credible labels can effectively inform and guide consumers. We’re also proponents of labeling GMOs, so consumers can knowingly choose in the marketplace.

29

Number of pesticides in the average American’s body.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What’s next?

We’re communicating with the Department of Agriculture—through petitions, comments to proposed rules, and meetings with the agency—to make a number of improvements, including increasing inspections, especially of meat-processing plants, banning the sale of disease-causing, antibiotic-resistant salmonella, and cracking down on misleading labels that fail to meet consumer expectations.

29

Number of pesticides in the average American’s body.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention