Study: a One-third of antibiotics are wasted on unnecessary treatments

Accreditation Insider, May 10, 2016

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Despite efforts to improve antimicrobial stewardship, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this month that one out of three antibiotics are is needlessly prescribed.

An estimated 154 million antibiotic prescriptions are written each year, with nearly half given for respiratory conditions for which antibiotics are largely ineffective against such as the common cold and bronchitis.

Antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) infections, also known as superbugs, are an increasing concern for public health. Two million Americans are infected annually infected by AMR infections, with 23,000 people dying as a direct result of their infections. A recent study of Washington D.C. area hospitals found that 5.1% of patients carried had carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) infections, which can kill up to 50% of those infected. On the international stage, the United Kingdom published a report estimating that AMR infections could kill up to 10 million annually by 2050.

“Antibiotics are lifesaving drugs, and if we continue down the road of inappropriate use we'll lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life-threatening infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, in a written statement. “Losing these antibiotics would undermine our ability to treat patients with deadly infections, cancer, provide organ transplants, and save victims of burns and trauma.”

There’ve been several efforts to improve antimicrobial stewardship at the national and international level. In January the CDC and the American College of Physicians released new guidelines for the use of antibiotics for respiratory conditions.  The Joint Commission has several resources on antimicrobial stewardship, including a video called “Speak Up: Antibiotics-Know the Facts.” At the 2016 World Economic Forum, 74 drug makers, 11 diagnostic test manufacturers, and nine industry groups pledged to work with each other and governments to tackle the issue of superbugs at the 2016 World Economic Forum by signing the “Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance.”

The CDC’s current goal is to halve the rate of inappropriate antibiotic use by 2020, which would require antibiotic prescriptions to be reduced by 15% over the next four years.

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