CDC Warns of Risks of Overprescribing Antibiotics in Hospital Patients

microscopic molecule Antibiotics, a type of medication that treats bacterial infections, have enabled doctors to make huge strides in treating and curing diseases. The success of antibiotics has led to their widespread use in hospitals, and this has led to concern that doctors and hospitals may be overusing them or using them incorrectly in many cases. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that frequent antibiotic prescriptions are contributing to increasingly-frequent infections by drug-resistant bacteria, making treatment more difficult. Overuse of certain “high-risk” antibiotics may also increase the risk of potentially deadly bacterial infections in hospitals. The CDC’s report gives recommendations on how hospitals, doctors, and pharmacists can better meet their duty of care to patients with regard to antibiotics, and how patients can protect themselves.

Patients suffering from a variety of bacterial infections can benefit from a course of antibiotic treatment. Selecting the right antibiotic is critically important, as certain types of bacteria may be resistant to specific antibiotics. The wrong antibiotic can hurt a patient more than help them, especially if the infection is actually viral rather than bacterial.

The March 2014 issue of the CDC’s Vital Signs addresses concerns over how antibiotics are prescribed and administered in hospitals. More than fifty percent of all hospital patients receive antibiotics, but the rate of prescriptions varies widely from one hospital to another. The three most common types of infections treated with antibiotics, according to the CDC, are lung infections, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). While UTIs account for about fourteen percent of all antibiotic prescriptions, the CDC found that one-third of those prescriptions had possible errors, such as inadequate diagnosis or monitoring, or a longer course of treatment than needed.

MRSA is a type of bacteria that has developed resistance to many antibiotics. It is commonly contracted as a skin infection, and can spread into the bloodstream causing serious, possibly fatal complications. The number of MRSA infections has been generally increased in recent years, and the CDC warns that overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the resistance of these bacteria to standard treatments. Maryland courts have found that failure to diagnose or treat a MRSA infection may violate the standard of care for a physician.

Overuse of certain antibiotics in hospitals is also contributing to potentially fatal infections by Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea and is highly resistant to antibiotic treatments. It infects as many as 250,000 hospitalized patients each year and causes 14,000 deaths. The CDC states that reducing the use of four types of antibiotics described as “high-risk” by thirty percent would reduce C. difficile infections by twenty-six percent. This would reduce the total usage of antibiotics by five percent, and could save as many as 3,640 lives.

Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt’s medical malpractice attorneys have represented Maryland patients and their families for over twenty years, helping them obtain compensation for losses and injuries resulting from the negligence or unlawful conduct of medical professionals. We are available 24/7 and can visit you in your home or at the hospital. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online, at (410) 567-0800.

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