Antibiotic stewardship programs reduce unneeded prescriptions, infections

As public officials continue to express concerns about the inappropriate use of antibiotics and the growth of drug-resistant superbugs, a new study finds that hospital stewardship programs can reduce the number of antibiotics prescribed to patients by as much as 40 percent.

The study, published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, found that antimicrobial stewardship programs lowered use of such drugs by nearly 40 percent in studied intensive care units and about 20 percent overall.

Previous research has found that 30 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are inappropriately prescribed, and overuse of antibiotics is linked to the increasing number of resistant superbugs.

The research team, made up of staff from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, analyzed 26 studies that examined antibiotic use at hospitals, with study periods ranging from 6 months to 3 years. In addition to a decrease in the number of antibiotics being prescribed to patients, the analysis found a decrease in bacterial infection rates and length of stay after the hospitals implemented a stewardship program. Infection rates decreased by more than 4 percent across the studies that included information about clinical outcomes, and length of stay decreased by nearly 9 percent across the studies that included that data, according to the authors.

The results, according to the study team, show that stewardship programs offer dual benefits to patients: less antibiotic use overall and more evidence-based drug options. 

The authors called for future studies to examine the long-term sustainability of the programs and how they can impact mortality and infection rates for hospitals. For facilities looking to add an antibiotic stewardship program, the National Quality Forum recently released a playbook with guidelines applicable to large research hospitals and smaller, rural facilities, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract