Antibiotic Stewardship

What Role Can Community Pharmacy Play in Antibiotic Stewardship?

Antibiotic resistance is a substantial growing global health threat to the public. Our bodies are becoming immune to the effects of antibiotics as a whole. Since there hasn’t been a new class of antibiotics in over 30 years, there’s little ways to reduce antibiotic resistance. We can’t simply swap over to a new antibiotic when we become sick any longer!

Here are the ways antibiotic resistance are hurting the public and the approach pharmacists can use to help clear up patient concerns, symptoms, and self-care management.

How does antibiotic resistance affect us?

Antibiotic resistance is a huge issue. It means failure and/or increased risk of medical procedures because our bodies become immune to antibiotics. The strand of bacteria causing our illness and symptoms can’t be eliminated by antibiotics. Instead, we become sicker, the illness gets worse, and by the time we notice the antibiotics aren’t working, it may be too late.4

The more antibiotics we take, the more the resistance becomes stronger. Upping the dosage of antibiotics when sick provides only negative affects to the patient because the body becomes further immune to the effects. Though it may successfully treat their current illness, there’s a greater chance the same antibiotic will have a weakened effect if used in a similar setting.

Considering many sicknesses are actually more viral than not, antibiotic treatment will have little effect if any at all. What this actually ends up doing is helping your body build a stronger immunity against the antibiotic. The patient may end up becoming sicker instead.

Economically, antibiotic resistance is impacting everyone from physicians, pharmaceuticals, to the public. Antibiotics that don’t work (causing higher patient deaths and disease) and the need for antibiotic availability are hurting everyone. When an antibiotic doesn’t work the public has pay more for additional treatment to treat and cure their symptoms, on top of the price for the antibiotic their body resisted. It’s a vicious cycle.

What infection is the most requested for antibiotics?

Walk in clinic PharmacyThe top infection requested for antibiotics are upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), yet most of the symptoms for URTIs don’t benefit from antibiotics. While it may take care of some, a person will still remain sick for a long duration of time because the antibiotic is essentially picking and choosing what to treat. Meanwhile, the body slowly becomes more immune with every antibiotic taken for URTIs.

Since antibiotic requests are so prevalent for URTIs, the pharmacy is the first port to call; it’s the primary position for antibiotic stewardship. Pharmacists exist to provide up-to-date information regarding illnesses and prescriptions, including antibiotic reactions with URTIs.

They will provide capable means to self-manage URTIs and additional medications to limit symptoms. They’ll also use the 1, 2, 3 approach to determine the typical length of (URTIs) symptoms last, the severity, and what to should expect while the body heals.

The Essential 1, 2, 3 Approach Each Pharmacist Needs to Know and Practice

The 1, 2, 3 approach is a requirement for every pharmacist to know in order to provide the best care for patients, sicknesses, symptoms, and long-term care.

Step 1: Address Patient Concerns

If a patient comes in with questions, answer professionally. Discuss the patient’s medical history, health hazards, and how they’ve been feeling with their current medications.5

Their questions may be connected to their prescription, dosage, additional medications, medical side effects, what to expect from their illness, their fears, and concerns. These patients look to their pharmacist for guidance, suggestions, and ideas to have a better quality of life.

Step 2: Assess Symptoms Severity

Often, patients who are sick will come in with their prescription. They may have been ill for a short duration or for several weeks to months. But there’s a chance they are unsure of how long the typical duration of symptoms last, or how severe they can become before intense medical care is required.

For example, Pharmacists may be the first to inform the patient their antibiotic prescription for URTIs will not fully cure their symptoms, especially not in the fastest and most effective way.Grip arrow graphic copy

Pharmacist lets them know the general timeline for their symptoms/sickness, ask how long they’ve had their symptoms, then provide next steps to help them manage as necessary.

Step 3: Counsel on Effective Self-Management

Antibiotics are not always the answer. In the case of URTIs or even something as simple as a sore throat, antibiotics will have less of an impact as the symptoms require. The average patient might not know these important details.

It’s up to the pharmacist to disclose effective self-management skills, after addressing patient concerns, and assessing their symptoms. This could be additional OTC medications that handle symptoms antibiotics will not, and personal care tips to do within the home.


Antibiotic resistance is a global issue affecting each of us. We’re running out of antibiotics to effectively treat illnesses. Additionally, there are many illnesses that can’t be cured by antibiotics because they’re viral, like with URTIs.

A pharmacist understands prescriptions, antibiotic resistance, symptoms and symptom durations, and patients with questions and concerns. It’s a pharmacist’s priority to explain to patients how to use self-care methods, understand their symptoms, and provide medication suggestions so the patient can live healthier, sooner. This is well-done through the 1, 2, 3 Approach.

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