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BC reduces antibiotic use, but still more to be done

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​​Vancouver – The rate of antibiotic prescribing in British Columbia fell 15 per cent between 2005 and 2014, according to a new analysis conducted by the BC Centre for Disease Control.

“We’re seeing some good progress when it comes to reducing unnecessary antibiotic prescription in the community, which not only saves the health care system money, but more importantly, helps mitigate the real threat posed by antibiotic resistant organisms,” said Dr. Mark Tyndall, executive medical director with the BCCDC. “But we shouldn’t let that lull us into a false sense of security. There is still much work to be done and this remains a serious issue.”

The analysis of BCPharmaNet claims, conducted by the BCCDC’s Do Bugs Need Drugs? (DBND) program, shows that between 2005 and 2014, antibiotic prescribing fell from 1.79 to 1.53 daily prescriptions per thousand BC residents. This can be explained by steep declines in prescribing for children and for respiratory infections, the original targets of the DBND program.

This reduction in antibiotic prescribing has also resulted in reduced costs. Over the same ten-year period, the annual cost of community antibiotic prescribing has fallen by 15.5 per cent, from $342-million in 2005, to $289-million in 2014, a savings of $53-million in 2014 alone. This includes a 31 per cent decrease in annual costs to BC PharmaCare for antibiotic claims, saving the Ministry of Health $25-million in 2014 compared to 2005.  

“Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to global human health,” said Dr. David Patrick, medical lead for antimicrobial resistance and DBND at the BCCDC. “Programs like Do Bugs Need Drugs are so important to build awareness of the issue and to educate health care professionals and the public. We need to preserve the value of antibiotics for future generations.”

The DBND program has identified two key priorities for the months and years ahead. The first is to continue reducing prescriptions in long-term care facilities, where a past tendency to over-treat asymptomatic bacteriuria (bacteria in the urine) is being slowly reversed. The second is to continue working with dentists to reduce unnecessary surgical prescriptions, as well as prescriptions for non-urgent symptoms and infections.

For more, see the BCCDC’s submission in the November edition of the BC Medical Journal.

Quick Facts

  • ​No major types of antibiotics have been developed in the last 30 years, despite the rise of “superbugs” resistant to available antibiotics. (World Health Organization, 2014)
  • 22.8 million antibiotic prescriptions were dispensed by Canadian pharmacies in 2013 (Public Health Agency of Canada)
  • 1 in 4 urinary tract infections are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and can’t be treated by antibiotics which were effective just 10 years ago. (
  • Twice as many patients die from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those caused by non-resistant bacteria. (World Health Organization)
  • 150,000 deaths a year are caused by multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). 440,000 new cases of MDR-TB emerge each year. (World Health Organization, 2011)
  • People across the world may soon die from common infections and minor injuries, unless urgent action is taken to prevent a post-antibiotic era. (World Health Organization, 2014)
Learn more

The BC Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides provincial and national leadership in public health through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides both direct diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities For more information, please visit or follow us on Twitter @CDCofBC ​

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC


Media Contact:
Ben Hadaway
Communications Officer, BCCDC
604-707-2412 or PHSA media line:
778. 867.7472​
antibiotic resistance; Do Bugs Need Drugs?
SOURCE: BC reduces antibiotic use, but still more to be done ( )
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