A message from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer: Preserving antibiotics now and in the future

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada's Spotlight Report 2019

Antibiotics are precious medicines that are critically important for curing serious infections. Taking them unnecessarily can encourage the tide of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and could also disrupt the balance of microbes that live naturally in your body. These resistant superbugs can go on to infect others and can increase the risk of complications from essential medical procedures, such as:

  • C-sections
  • hip replacements
  • chemotherapy

The more and more we use antibiotics unnecessarily, the less effective they will become. Many Canadians have already experienced serious infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or know someone who has. A world without effective antibiotics is not one we would wish on future generations.

Why are antibiotics sometimes prescribed and taken when they aren’t needed? It turns out the decision to prescribe and use antibiotics is more than just a medical one. It is shaped by:

  • relationships with our healthcare providers
  • pressures within the medical clinic and health system
  • the misperception that antibiotics are magic bullet solutions

Through this report, I examine why people may be prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily and what we can do about it.

While different ways of reducing unnecessary antibiotic use are being implemented in different areas of Canada, we lack evidence on how effective they are and we have not adequately spread best practices across the country. We need to get practical tools into the hands of prescribers and monitor their impact on prescribing patterns.

As Canada’s federal champion for antimicrobial resistance, I hope that by reading this report, we can all:

  • examine our own reasons for wanting or prescribing antibiotics
  • ask more questions
  • think twice about their use

By changing our prescribing behaviours, it is possible for us to preserve antibiotics now and into the future.