June 2015 Newsletter

Decades of inaction to curb the overuse of life-saving antibiotics by physicians, dentists, patients, and farmers has created hard-to-treat "superbugs" that are spreading and growing stronger, with dire consequences. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the unrestrained use of antibiotics sickens at least 2.25 million Americans each year and kills another 37,000 people. The problem is fixable, but we must act quickly and work together to change our behaviors to preserve the effectiveness of these lifesaving drugs.

A nationally representative survey from Consumer Reports shows poor awareness among Americans about antibiotic resistance and widespread misinformation about its causes, with 41 percent of adults saying they are unaware of antibiotic resistance.

Today, our team at Consumer Reports Health released the first feature in a three-part investigative series for Consumer Reports magazine that focuses on America's antibiotic crisis. "The Rise of Superbugs" explains how the overuse and misuse of antibiotics is leading to the strengthening and spread of dangerous infections that are becoming resistant to these drugs. The remaining installments will examine the presence of superbugs in America's hospitals and the role antibiotics play in the U.S. meat supply.

As part of this initiative, Consumer Reports will participate in this week's Spotlight Health, a segment of the Aspen Ideas Festival. On Saturday, June 27th, our Board Chair Diane Archer will moderate a panel on how to curb antibiotic overuse in the U.S. and around the world, with experts Anthony Fauci, Margaret Hamburg, and Ramanan Laxminarayan. Earlier this month, Consumer Reports' President and CEO Marta Tellado was invited to participate in the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship.

In addition, Consumer Reports, through its participation in the Choosing Wisely initiative (in partnership with ABIM Foundation), is collaborating with seven U.S. healthcare organizations to focus on reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics for viral infections by at least 20 percent within three years.

We invite our partners and friends to join us in our efforts to save antibiotics. Visit our special page at ConsumerReports.org/superbugs to access a wide range of information on superbugs and antibiotic resistance including videos, news articles, and social conversation.

And follow the conversation on Twitter at #SlamSuperbugs and #SpotlightHealth.

Tara Montgomery
Senior Director, Health Impact

New Choosing Wisely grants announced

The ABIM Foundation has selected seven initiatives that will focus on reducing the use of tests and treatments that national medical specialty societies participating in Choosing Wisely have said are overused. The grant program, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will bring together health care organizations from across the country that have built strong multistakeholder alliances to focus on implementation of at least three Choosing Wisely recommendations, including reducing the use of antibiotics for viral infections. The three-year grants bring together health systems, hospitals and medical groups.



Online guide: How to launch a campaign 

Want to launch your own consumer-facing Choosing Wisely campaign? Whether you're talking with your neighbors, co-workers, patients, employees or customers, we have distilled the lessons, learned by others, into a series of easy steps. Here's what you need to know about selecting the initial topics; developing programs in the community, in the clinic or at work; reaching the media; and measuring your effects. 


Best Drugs for Less: Bulk copies available 

For partners interested in distributing drug information resources, Consumer Reports has published an update of its popular guide, Best Drugs for Less. The 68-page guide relies on an expert panel of doctors to provide shopping and cost-cutting advice for nearly 650 medicines to treat common conditions.   Click here for a PDF, or contact us for printed copies or a link to our mobile-friendly web site.  Also, a new guide drawing on the Choosing Wisely campaign and CR's recent cover story, "Dangerous Pills," is available as a resource for educating consumers about the risks of prescription pain pills.  Contact us directly at [email protected] to request bulk shipments of these publications.


Standing up to surprise medical bills

Nearly one third of privately insured Americans received a surprise medical bill in the past two years, a new Consumer Reports survey has found. Even the savviest health consumers can get hit with unexpected bills from out-of-network doctors. Consumers Union is currently supporting legislation in several states, including California and Texas, that would strengthen protections against surprise medical bills. Meanwhile, many people don't know where to turn with complaints about these surprise bills. So we have introduced a new tool that helps you find out where to complain in your state.


Award for health insurance literacy video

A Consumer Reports video that helps explain health insurance has won a platinum Hermes Creative Award. The 5-minute animation, Understanding Healthcare Costs, was created last year as part of CR's health insurance literacy campaign. The Hermes Creative Awards are an international competition for creative professionals who write, design and produce marketing and communication materials. The award was in the educational videos category.


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In the news
 Mirror: Health experts warn doctors that their attitude to treating patients can cause more harm than good, with too many drugs and procedures being prescribed.


MedPage Today:  Preventing medical overuse and choosing tests and treatments that are appropriate for individual patients requires engaging patients in their care.


JAMA: A new study finds longterm physician disregard of guidelines meant to reduce use of pre-operative tests.