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National Report Card on Antibiotic Resistance Reveals Slight Increase in 2001; Much Lower Than Preliminary Reports

Antibiotic Awareness Week survey also shows encouraging results about Canadians' increased understanding of the issue

TORONTO - January 29, 2002 - After several years of decline, Canada has experienced a small increase in the rates of antibiotic resistance to some bacterial infections, but remains a world leader in the fight against this serious public health threat. In addition, a survey conducted for the National Information Program on Antibiotics (NIPA) shows that the number of Canadians who understand the issue and its implications continues to increase.

According to the final 2001 data compiled by the Canadian Bacterial Surveillance Network (CBSN), the rate of penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae has increased to slightly more than 14.75 per cent, up from about 12.5 per cent last year. This figure is significantly lower than preliminary data compiled in December 2001, which showed Streptococcus pneumoniae resistance at more than 21 per cent. That figure was based on information received from approximately half of the Canadian hospitals that submit data to CBSN. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the leading cause of community-acquired infections such as bronchitis, sinusitis, middle ear infections and pneumonia.

The report card and survey results were released today as part of NIPA's third annual National Antibiotic Awareness Week. The coalition of medical, pharmacist and patient groups has been working since 1996 to raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of the appropriate use of antibiotics.

"I think this is a bit of an eye-opener for us. Given the reductions in some resistance rates that we had seen over the past few years we're obviously disappointed that rates have increased slightly," said Dr. Ronald Grossman, Chief of Medicine at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga and Chair of the National Information Program on Antibiotics. "But from the survey results we know that we're on the right track, and that we need to sustain our efforts if we are going to be successful at keeping resistance rates under control over the long term."

Despite this increase, Canada is still a world leader in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Rates of penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae are significantly lower in Canada than in many other parts of the world, where they range from more than 30 per cent in parts of South America to as high as 80 per cent in Hong Kong and South Africa. In the United States, the latest figures show resistance at 41 per cent.

The consumer survey, conducted for NIPA by Ipsos-Reid, revealed that only 53 per cent of Canadians said they had been prescribed an oral antibiotic in the past three years, down from 61 per cent in a similar survey conducted by NIPA in 2000. In addition, 63 per cent said they are now less likely to ask their physician for a prescription for a cold or flu, up from 55 per cent in 2000.

But there are still indications that more work needs to be done to educate Canadians about the appropriate use of antibiotics. While down slightly from 2000, 30 per cent of Canadians still mistakenly believe that antibiotics are effective for treating colds and flu, and 24 per cent feel that antibiotic resistance isn't a problem that could affect them.

"Since NIPA was formed we have conducted consumer research every couple of years to determine whether we are making an impact by educating the public and changing attitudes," said Dr. Grossman. "It's clear that the majority of Canadians now understand the issue, but there are still some important misconceptions about antibiotic resistance and the use of antibiotics."

As a result, NIPA is extending its consumer advertising campaign, which began last year, throughout 2002. Ads will run in consumer publications such as Maclean's, Chatelaine, and Healthy Woman. NIPA has also developed a number of educational materials including the coalition's website [], the NIPA Antibiotic Information Kit, and an Antibiotics: Use Them Wisely poster for use in pharmacies and physicians' offices.

The partners in NIPA are the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Infectious Disease Society, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Thoracic Society, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, and the Canadian Lung Association. NIPA's costs are underwritten by an educational grant from Pfizer Canada, which brought together the coalition. Rogers Media also supports the initiative by helping deliver NIPA's messages to healthcare professionals through its various publications.

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