Antibiotics Used Too Frequently by Fearful Doctors

Want to know why some antibiotics are no longer working and some infections are incurable?  Thank the doctors who, according to The Washington Post, are prescribing "up to three times as many antibiotics as doctors at other hospitals, putting patients at greater risk for deadly superbug infections, according to a federal study released Tuesday.

Leah H. Sun at The Washington Post notes, "About one-third of the time, prescriptions to treat urinary tract infections and prescriptions for the drug vancomycin were given without proper testing or evaluation, or prescribed for too long, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."


One reason doctors may prescribe antibiotics more often than necessary is because they want to avoid withholding a prescription from a hospitalized patient ultimately found to have a bacterial infection, which can lead to sepsis, and ultimately death, University of Michigan doctors say in a new commentary, reports.

A story in The New York Times today tells the tragic story of Rory Staunton,a young boy who got a scrape in a school basketball game which became infected, only to be sent home from the hospital to die of sepsis several days later.  

Sun adds that antibiotic-resistant infections kill an estimated 23,000 Americans each year.  She writes that CDC Director Thomas Frieden told reporters in a teleconference Tuesday, “We have to protect our antibiotics before our medicine chests run empty."


Sun quotes Frieden, who says that the CDC is strongly recommending that all hospitals, "no matter how small, develop a seven-step antibiotic prescribing program that includes greater accountability and monitoring of antibiotic prescription and use."

What's key is an automatic reassessment within 48 hours of prescribing to make sure the drug choice is appropriate, he said.

In a case like Staunton's, The New York Times points out, doctors must act immediately and begin antibiotics.  Only after tests have confirmed that the patient does not have sepsis can the antibiotics be stopped.  Patient mortality rates increase by 7% for every hour antibiotics are not administered, NYT writer Jim Dwyer explains.


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