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CDC: Antibiotic Prescribing Putting Patients at Risk

Posted on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Antibiotics can be lifesaving, but poor prescribing practices put hospital patients at risk for preventable allergic reactions, super-resistant infections, and deadly diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile.  These practices also drive antibiotic resistance, further endangering the future of these miracle drugs and the patients who need them.  For some hospital patients, it is already too late.  We must change prescribing practices now.

According to a new CDC Vital Signs report:

  • About one-third of the time, prescribing practices to treat urinary tract infections and prescriptions for the critical and common drug vancomycin included a potential error. This means that many patients are given drugs without proper testing or evaluation, or were given drugs for too long.

  • Clinicians in some hospitals prescribed three times as many antibiotics as clinicians in other hospitals, even though patients were receiving care in similar areas of each hospital. This difference suggests the need to improve prescribing practices. 

  • A 30 percent reduction in the antibiotics most likely to cause C. difficile infections can reduce these deadly infections by more than 25 percent.

To help hospitals develop antibiotic prescribing improvement programs (also called “antibiotic stewardship” programs), CDC has developed an accompanying checklist and  Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs.

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