Science and Health

Hospitals Overprescribe Antibiotics, Fueling Superbugs: CDC

A new report from the CDC says doctors in some hospitals prescribe three times as many antibiotics as doctors in other hospitals.

Hospitals Overprescribe Antibiotics, Fueling Superbugs: CDC
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

It's no secret overusing antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant superbugs, but now the CDC says hospitals might be adding to that problem by overprescribing.

The CDC studied more than 300 hospitals in 2010 and 2011 and found that among them, some doctors prescribe three times as many antibiotics as other doctors. And about a third of the time, patients are given antibiotics without proper testing. 

There are a few problems with overprescribing antibiotics — it makes some drugs less effective "because superbugs resistant to them are developing so fast. The practice also can sicken patients, by making them vulnerable to other types of infections such as Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection." (Via The Wall Street Journal)

The CDC says even one change in using antibiotics would have big results. Reducing antibiotics use by 30 percent would reduce the number of C. diff. infections by 26 percent.

Fox News' Senior Managing Editor for Health News Dr. Manny Alvarez mentions another consequence of overprescribing. 

"Twenty-three thousand people die annually of hospital-acquired infections, mostly due to drug-resistant bugs, and those come mainly from the overutilization of antibiotics."

To fix the problem, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says prescribing needs to be managed better. "We have to protect patients by protecting antibiotics. The drugs we have today are in danger, and any new drugs we get could be lost just as quickly as if we don't improve the way we prescribe and use them." (Via HealthDay)​

The CDC also recommends a few guidelines such as having doctors or pharmacists lead programs on responsible antibiotic use, educating doctors about the dangers of antibiotic resistance, and requiring that prescriptions be reassessed within 48 hours.

Although this problem won't be fixed overnight, the guidelines are a step in the right direction. The CDC is also asking for $30 million in 2015 to continue researching superbug infections.