Friday, August 08, 2008

Socialised Medicine - It's Actually Good For You!

The New Yorker has a feature on 'superbugs' - antibiotic and drug-resistant bacteria such as multiply resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). On page 4, you'll find this:

[Studies on how often, and for how long, antibiotics should be prescribed] are much easier to conduct in countries where medicine is largely socialized and prescriptions are tightly regulated. Recently, researchers in Israel, where most citizens receive their care through such a system, showed that refraining from empirically prescribing antibiotics during the summer months resulted in a sharp decline in ear infections caused by antibiotic-resistant microbes. (In the United States, a 1998 study estimated that fifty-five per cent of all antibiotics prescribed for respiratory infections in outpatients—22.6 million prescriptions—were unnecessary.) In Sweden, the government closely monitors all infections, and has the power to intervene as needed. 'Our infection-control people have a lot of authority,' [Dr. Christian Giske, a clinical microbiologist at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm] said, 'This is power from the legislation.' Once a resistant microbe is identified, stringent protocols are put in place, with dramatic results. Fewer than two per cent of the staphylococci in Sweden are MRSA, compared with sixty per cent in the United States. 'Of course, it’s only around ten million people, so it’s possible to intervene because everything is smaller,' Giske said, adding, 'Maybe Swedes are more used to this type of intervention and regulation.'

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