Oh Canada: Why so many antibiotics?


A report released this month from the non-profit Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), says antibiotics are prescribed more frequently in Canada than in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. For example, in 2015, more than 25 million courses of antibiotics were prescribed in Canada – the equivalent of almost 1 prescription for every Canadian age 20 to 69.

A CIHI statement released with the report condemns these numbers:


Our data shows that there is overuse and misuse of antibiotics across the country. The unnecessary use of antibiotics can be harmful for vulnerable patients, decreases the effectiveness of antibiotics over time and puts us at larger risk of antibiotic resistance.


And why does it matter if, due to overuse, antibiotics are losing their effectiveness? Because hospital-acquired infections are “frighteningly common.… They are the fourth-leading cause of death, with 8,000 to 12,000 Canadians dying of them every year,” said Dick Zoutman, physician director of the Community and Hospital Infection Control Association of Canada, to The Globe and Mail. Simply put, if we lose more antibiotics we lose more people.

The CIHI report is timely because with the coming of cold, flu, and pneumonia season, we, the people, have a crucial role to play in preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics: stop demanding them for illnesses they don’t treat. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us:


Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, flu, most sore throats, and bronchitis. Even many sinus and ear infections can get better without antibiotics. Instead, symptom relief might be the best treatment option for these infections.


Here’s a handy reference:




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