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Study Reveals Antibiotic Prescription Errors Cost $163 Million

476400937Findings from a recent study imply that hospitals are making antibiotic prescription errors because physicians too willing to write out prescriptions. The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America reported that unnecessary prescriptions may have cost an overwhelming $163 million.

“The overuse of antibiotics is an industry-wide public health issue that is occurring across all care settings,” said Leslie Schultz, RN, PhD, the study’s lead author and director of the Premier Safety Institute, Premier, Inc. “Sometimes in an effort to ‘do whatever it takes’ to fight a serious infection, clinicians use multiple antibiotics to treat the same infection. This practice can contribute to antimicrobial resistance, put patient safety at risk and increase costs. We hope these findings help to enhance the antimicrobial stewardship initiatives that the majority of U.S. hospitals already have in place today.”

The October issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology contains a more thorough account of the results.

Antibiotic prescription errors

Three specific drug blends used to treat anaerobic infections contained 70 percent of potentially useless medications. The combination of metronidazole and piperacillin-tazobactam was responsible for more than 50 percent of this data.

The research time examined inpatient pharmacy statistics from 2008 to 2011 at more than 500 hospitals in the United States. Results revealed that 78 percent of hospitals were believed to be using excessive drug combinations and a shocking 32,507 total cases of redundant antibiotics treatment was discovered.

Not only does unnecessary drug use cause healthcare costs to rise, it can also increase a patient’s risk of having an adverse reaction to the drug and can promote antimicrobial resistance.

“Improving the way antibiotics are prescribed not only helps reduce rates of Clostridium difficile infection and antibiotic resistance, but can also improve individual patient outcomes, all while reducing healthcare costs,” said Arjun Srinivasan, MD, associate director for Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at CDC. “Eliminating these unnecessarily duplicative antibiotic therapies is a simple way that all facilities can both protect their patients and save healthcare dollars.”

Antibiotics aren’t always necessary

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that antibiotics aren’t always needed to cure illnesses.

“Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections,” writes the CDC. “Instead, symptom relief might be the best treatment option for viral infections.

The CDC notes that taking antibiotics for viral infections is unnecessary and will not ─ cure the infection, keep the infection from spreading or help the patient feel better. In fact, taking antibiotics when they’re not needed can cause harmful side effects.

Instead of taking medications for these illnesses, the CDC recommends that patients get a lot of rest, fluids and use over-the-counter products.

The CDC also advises on the importance of not taking antibiotics prescribed to anyone else, as this may actually worsen symptoms. Patients should complete their entire treatment plan and discard any leftover medication at the end of the cycle, rather than saving it in case another family member falls ill.