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National Report Card on Antibiotic Resistance Reveals Important Advances in Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance but More Work is Still Needed

National Awareness Week and Advertising Campaign Planned to Raise Concern of Public Health Threat

TORONTO - (January 23, 2001) - The latest information on antibiotic resistance trends suggests that while Canadians have had success in decreasing some levels of antibiotic resistance found in community-acquired bacterial infections, other more serious variants of resistant bacteria have risen dramatically during the past year.

To address the need for action on this front, the National Information Program on Antibiotics (NIPA) has designated the week of January 22 as National Antibiotic Awareness Week. The week gives consumers an opportunity to speak to their healthcare professionals about how Canadians can help control the spread of antibiotic resistance in their community by learning more about the appropriate use of antibiotics and why colds and flus do not respond to antibiotic treatment.

The National Information Program on Antibiotics (NIPA) is taking this opportunity to unveil its Canada-wide consumer advertising campaign about the importance of prescribing antibiotics appropriately and using them wisely, when they will work best to kill bacteria and cure infections. NIPA is a coalition of major Canadian medical, pharmacist and patient groups which has been working since 1996 to raise awareness in Canada about the need for responsible use of antibiotics.

"Despite significant improvements in controlling some forms of antibiotic resistance in Canada, it is obvious that more severe measures must be taken to improve awareness of this potentially life-threatening issue," said Dr. Ronald Grossman, chair of NIPA, Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, and Respiratory Physician at Mount Sinai Hospital. "It is our hope that our designation of a national Antibiotic Awareness Week, supported by initiatives such as NIPA's consumer advertising campaign, will help to raise the national consciousness of antibiotic resistance as a serious public health threat."

Researchers tracking isolates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the Canadian Bacterial Surveillance Network have noted that antibiotic resistance rates of Streptococcus pneumoniae, the most common bacterial cause of infections like community-acquired pnemonia, ear infections, sinusitis and bronchitis, have decreased more than four per cent since 1998 after peaking at over 14 per cent resistance to penicillin. This is in stark contrast to what researchers have noted in other countries where, without intervention, resistance rates have continued to increase significantly. Conversely, the incidence of the sometimes more serious MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has increased 3 to 4 fold in Canada since 1995. 1.

The growth in antibiotic resistance rates has become a major concern to healthcare professionals during the past two decades. To keep the threat of antibiotic resistance in check, Canadian consumers, in concert with healthcare professionals, have a critical role to play to ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately. Currently, Canadians have access to extremely effective antibiotics, but without responsible management of these agents, society could be at a loss for effective medications for serious infections such as meningitis, and pneumonia.

"The primary cause for the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inappropriate use of antibiotics," said Dr. Donald Low, Chief, Toronto Medical Laboratories and Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai Hospital. "Appropriate use of antibiotics not only benefits society as a whole, but also the individual. One of the greatest risk factors for a patient having an infection with a resistant strain is the use of antibiotics in the three months prior to the infection. Patients can deter the development of resistance by taking their medication properly, as prescribed by their physician."

"Canada is still viewed by the scientific community as a world leader in managing antibiotic resistance," said Dr. Francois Boucher, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Laval University Faculty of Medicine, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Consultant, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec, Centre Hospitalier de l'Université Laval. "Our antibiotic resistance management initiatives have yielded very encouraging results in some areas; however, it is clear that the largest impact we can have in containing and reducing the risk of resistance is in alerting patients, pharmacists and physicians of the role they can all play in making sure the antibiotics we have remain effective. I think the National Antibiotic Awareness Week and NIPA's consumer advertising campaign are a further step in the right direction towards realizing that goal."

Beginning this week, NIPA, with its sponsor Pfizer Canada Inc. and media partner Rogers Media, will initiate Canada's first consumer advertising campaign to promote the appropriate use of antibiotics in Canada.

The program is expected to reach more than 3.5 million Canadians through an extensive print campaign in popular Rogers Media magazines like Chatelaine (English and French), Today's Parent, Healthy Woman, Enfant Québec and Santé Femme. A concurrent ten-week radio campaign will reach another 1.5 million Canadians on a weekly basis. The campaign is aimed not only at creating greater awareness of the issue but also motivating significant change in Canadians' attitudes toward antibiotics.

During the past five years, NIPA has developed a number of educational materials to encourage dialogue between healthcare professionals and patients, including the coalition's website []; the NIPA Antibiotic Information Kit which contains antibiotics compliance pads, non-prescription pads and information pamphlets; and an Antibiotics: Use Them Wisely poster for use in pharmacies and physicians' offices. The consumer advertising campaign and the official designation of an Antibiotic Awareness Week mark the next step.

Since its inception in 1996 at the initiative of a number of health organizations and Pfizer Canada Inc., the coalition has grown to include eight leading health, medical, patient and pharmacy organizations. NIPA partners include: 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 Lung Association. NIPA's costs are underwritten by an educational grant from Pfizer Canada. Rogers Media also supports the initiative by helping deliver NIPA's messages to healthcare professionals and consumers through its various publications.


1. Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Canada: Five Years of National Surveillance; A.E. Simor, M. Ofner-Agostini, E. Bryce, K. Green, A. McGeer, M. Mulvey, S. Paton; the Canadian Nosocomial Infection Surveillance Program, 40th ICAAC, Sept. 17-20, 2000, Toronto.

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