Data Show Acne Patients Don't Understand Risks Associated with Antibiotic Treatment

November 19, 2015

Widespread and inappropriate use of antibiotics continues to be a problems in the US leading to antibiotic resistance issues. While most people understand how the overuse of antibiotics to treat viral infections contributes to this issue, according to Galderma, new data reveal that acne patients and parents of teenage acne patients significantly underestimate the risks and potential consequences associated with antibiotic use for the treatment of acne, particularly topical antibiotics (e.g., clindamycin and erythromycin).

“Long-term and widespread use of antibiotics across healthcare has led to increases in antibiotic resistance –not only making today’s infections harder to treat, but studies suggest it also negatively impacts patients’ future ability to fight off other infections,” said Lauri Hicks, DO, Medical Director, Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work. “CDC partners with vital stakeholders during Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, including the dermatology community, to tackle this important health concern and educate consumers about antibiotic resistance and appropriate antibiotic use.”

Over the past two years, approximately 11.5 million prescriptions for oral antibiotics and 6.9 million prescriptions for topical antibiotics were dispensed for dermatology related issues, including acne, and in 2013, nearly two-thirds of antibiotic use in dermatology was for acne, according to Galderma. Both oral and topical antibiotics have been widely used in the treatment for acne for more than 50 years because of their ability to reduce the Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) and reduce inflammation,  but the long-term risk of these treatment options is not registering for most acne sufferers and parents of acne sufferers.

A recent survey sponsored by Galderma Laboratories, L.P., inclusive of 809 acne sufferers (ages 17-40 years) and 210 parents of acne sufferers (child, aged 9-17 years), found that despite the risk of antibiotic resistance and potential side effects:

  • Sixty-four percent of survey respondents were not aware that overuse of topical antibiotics to treat acne could make them a carrier of drug-resistant bacteria.
  • More than 50 percent of respondents had not spoken with their doctor about the risk of antibiotic use to treat acne.
  • While 65 percent of survey respondents said that they make an effort to avoid antibiotics unless they are the only option, only a third of those not prescribed antibiotic-free acne treatment were aware such treatments existed.
  • Only 28 percent of survey respondents who were not prescribed antibiotic-free acne treatment had ever discussed antibiotic-free treatment for acne with their healthcare providers.

Research shows that since 1978, P. acnes resistance to antibiotic treatment has more than tripled. Not only does the use of topical and oral antibiotics to treat acne have the potential to impact antibiotic resistance, but overuse also contributes to adverse events, including Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, sensitivity to sunlight, and yeast infections. Research also shows that among children ages 3 to 18, frequent use of antibiotics may contribute to weight gain, and the contribution of antibiotics to weight gain increased with age.

The 2015 survey results were reported during the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Get Smart About Antibiotics Week 2015 (November 16 – 22). This marks the second consecutive year that Galderma has participated in the annual one-week observance to raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use.

“Galderma is committed to partnering with the dermatology community to increase education and awareness of the importance of antibiotic stewardship” said Philip M. Brown, MD, JD, Senior Vice President, Medical and Regulatory Affairs, Galderma Laboratories, L.P. “Through research and development of antibiotic-free alternatives and ongoing awareness initiatives, including Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, and through policy initiatives, Galderma aims to help drive meaningful change for both health care professionals and patients.”

—Paul Winnington

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