Health Team

CDC working to curb excessive use of antibiotics

Posted October 7, 2014 5:53 p.m. EDT
Updated January 11, 2016 8:13 a.m. EST

Antibiotics are critically important drugs, but very powerful antibiotics are often used when they're not absolutely necessary.

“Unnecessary antibiotic use is one of the key drivers for the development of antibiotic-resistant infections,” said Dr. Scott Fridkin with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers with the CDC conducted a survey of 183 hospitals in the United States and found that one out of every two patients surveyed was on an antibiotic. Half of them were getting two or more antibiotics.

"The very most common drug overall was a drug called vancomycin,” said Dr. Shelley S. Magill of the CDC. “When we looked at the most common antibiotics that patients were getting, we did find that they tended to be what we call broad-spectrum antibiotic drugs.”

Broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are used to treat more resistant infections, were not only given to patients in intensive care units, but they were commonly prescribed in regular medical and surgical units as well as for infections that began outside of the hospital.

"The line has really been blurred between reserving these powerful antibiotics for patients that have health care acquired infections and those that have community-based infections,” Fridkin said.

Last March, the CDC asked every hospital in the country to implement an antibiotic stewardship program. It requires strong leadership, accountability and careful monitoring and tracking.

“That's a program that can make a difference for all the providers that prescribe antibiotics in hospitals in the U.S.," Fridkin said.