Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pew Charitable Trusts released a study in JAMA and corresponding editorial that analyzed antibiotic use in the outpatient setting. The study found that in the U.S. in 2010-2011, there was an estimated annual antibiotic prescription rate per 1000 people of 506, but only an estimated 353 of those prescriptions were likely appropriate.

The study asserts these results support the need for the national strategy on improving antibiotic stewardship. And this is a concept we embrace.

Hospitals are reviewing the use of antibiotics so that they are used only when necessary to deter the development of new antibiotic resistance. According to a 2015 American Society of Health-System Pharmacist National Survey on antimicrobial stewardship programs, 65 percent of hospitals have implemented an antimicrobial stewardship program, up from 45 percent in 2010. While there is still a ways to go, this shows real progress.

Through the AHA’s Physician Leadership Forum, we issued a toolkit that looks at some of the proven, effective strategies that encourage the appropriate use of antibiotics including:

  • Creating a stewardship program or enhancing an existing one that has core elements, such as leadership commitment, accountability, expertise, tracking and monitoring and education; and
  • Educating patients about why an antibiotic may or may not be used in specific situations, prescribing them only when necessary.

For example, the toolkit includes CDC’s “Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer” fact sheet for patients, providing quick facts on antibiotic use. 

It will take all of us working together – physicians, hospitals and patients – to be better stewards of life-saving antibiotics.

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