U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week

Emily Torgerson  •   November 10, 2021

Mark your calendars — November 18-24, 2021 is U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week! While antibiotics are crucial and life-saving medications when properly used, excessive prescribing by health care providers has become a major problem and is a contributor to antibiotic resistance.

How Antibiotics Work

Antibiotics can either stop bacteria from reproducing or destroy them. If the number of harmful bacteria in a person’s body is extreme and the immune system is unable to destroy them all, an antibiotic prescription is appropriate. However, they are often uselessly prescribed for illnesses like the flu and common colds, which antibiotics are unable to fight. This allows bacteria to become better at avoiding medications when they encounter them. According to TIME magazine, up to 43% of antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. may be “inappropriate.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 2.8 million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections each year, resulting in more than 35,000 deaths. As illnesses become more difficult to treat, patients’ suffering will increase and health care providers may have to resort to prescribing more powerful drugs, leading to dangerous side effects.1

Why Is Antibiotic Resistance Happening?

Amidst the rising threat of antibiotic resistance across the globe, new resistance mechanisms are spreading, putting the ability to treat common infectious diseases in jeopardy. Infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, gonorrhea, and various foodborne diseases are becoming increasingly harder to treat as antibiotics lose their effectiveness.

The circulation of resistance worsens when antibiotics may be purchased over the counter for human or animal use without a prescription. Regarding animal use, antibiotics are sometimes utilized to promote growth in food-producing animals, when they should only be prescribed to treat infection. Antibiotics are also commonly over-prescribed by health care providers and veterinarians in countries without standard treatment regulations.2

What Can You Do to Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?

There are several ways individuals can prevent and control antibiotic resistance:2

Only use antibiotics as instructed by a certified health care professional.

Never demand antibiotics if your health care provider advises against it.

Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, and keeping vaccinations up to date.

Prepare food hygienically following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food Manual and select foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.

Without immediate action, a post-antibiotic world could be imminent, meaning common infections and minor injuries could once again prove fatal. That is why it’s so important to recognize U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week!

Click here to view National CooperativeRx’s educational brief on antibiotic resistance. If you would like more information on antibiotic awareness, please contact your Cooperative account executive.


  1. https://time.com/5747331/unnecessary-antibiotic-prescriptions/
  2. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance