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Are we too stupid be trusted with our own life-saving antibiotic?


There's an anthrax attack. Would you rather a) have antibiotics of against Bacillus anthraces ready to go in your medicine cabinet, or b) drive to your local pharmacy or other distribution center the government deems effective?

Common sense tells us that the former makes the most sense from a preparedness standpoint, not to mention a panic control standpoint. I mean, if you didn't have the antibiotic within 48 hours would you panic? Would you stampede? Would you be ok waiting by your mailbox?

We wouldn't do any of those things, but a recent study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences deems the masses too irresponsible to be trusted with the antibiotic ourselves. Government dispensation is the safest route in the ever increasing event of biological warfare, in this case anthrax.

The report suggests that local jurisdictions should being "pre-positioning" where anthrax antibiotics should be stored in their community in case of attack.

Why can't we have the drugs ourselves? Blogger Stewart Baker states it perfectly on the Volokh Conspiracy:

The main reason it gives is that you and the rest of the public are just too bone stupid to be trusted with antibiotics.  But to spare your feelings, the Institute puts it this way:  letting you have antibiotics raises “the potential for inappropriate use in routine settings (e.g., using the antibiotics to treat a cold) and the potential for widespread inappropriate use in response to a distant anthrax attack, a false alarm caused by a nonanthrax white-powder event, or some other public health emergency for which antibiotics are not indicated.”

But, really, “too bone stupid” is pretty much what they meant.

This is the National Academy of Sciences, of course, so they've got scientific evidence of our stupidity.  Like, for example, the Center for Disease Control gave more than four thousand people in St. Louis special antibiotic medkits to hold for an emergency.  Months later, they went back and collected them.  They counted the people who had engaged in “inappropriate use in routine settings.” And they found, uh, four.  Not four percent, four people.  That’s one-tenth of one percent, last time I looked.

Even still, CNN includes this quote from the study in its report:

"concerns remain about the nation's ability to respond to an anthrax attack scenario of the most dire proportions -- for example, a large-scale attack impacting hundreds of thousands of people and carried out in multiple cities."

So, we still can't have them? Baker writes that a chosen few will have access to kits, like medical professionals and first responders... and government officials.

The report, via Baker, also says that "personal stockpiling" of antibiotics is appropriate for those who "lack access to antibiotics via other timely dispensing mechanisms". According to Baker, these people would just have to convince their physician that they "lacked access."  I guess the study authors don't see the word "stockpiling" as greedy and/or care that such limited supply in a high-demand emergency guarantees these stockpilers will make serious bank.

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