AMA: Drugs are for anthrax, not fear

2:27pm, October 17, 2001

News accounts have revealed that dozens of people in the United States were

potentially exposed to the anthrax bacterium in acts of bioterrorism. These

reports have triggered public inquiries about who should take antibiotics to ward

off anthrax infections.

This week, the Chicago-based American Medical Association (AMA) issued an advisory

to physicians arguing that such prophylactic use of antibiotics might do more harm

than good. The AMA noted that such use of the drugs could foster antibiotic

resistance in anthrax germs–rendering these drugs useless in the future, when they may be truly needed.

Over the past few weeks, public health officials have distributed or prescribed

ciprofloxacin and other antibiotics to people who handled envelopes containing

powders carrying anthrax spores. "And I think that's appropriate," says Timothy

Flaherty, chairman of the AMA's board of trustees, "at least for the time it takes

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