Antibiotic Uses and Challenges — A Comprehensive Review From NRC

John H. Powers, MD; Janet A. Phoenix, MD, MPH; Diana M. Zuckerman, PhD

If used appropriately, antibiotics can help patients live longer and feel better.  However, antibiotics can also harm patients, by causing serious and life-threatening adverse reactions, such as a potentially deadly allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) or liver damage.  In fact, antibiotics are the second most common cause of anaphylaxis in the U.S., after food allergies.  In some situations, the risks are greater than the likely benefits.  At a recent public meeting, FDA officials and experts discussed whether antibiotics given for children’s ear infections did more harm than good, even if there was clear evidence of a bacterial infection.

The newer antibiotics are usually more expensive and have more risks, but they are not necessarily more effective.  Misuse of antibiotics harms patients, costs billions of dollars every year, and contributes to MRSA and other dangerously resistant bacteria.  Our Medscape article provides a comprehensive summary of antibiotics for medical professionals. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/723457 .  If you aren’t already registered with Medscape, you can register for free.