CDC: Superbug threat doesn't stop hospitals from prescribing antibiotics

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Despite concerns about the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, antibiotic use has not significantly dropped over the past several years, according to a new study.

The research, which comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that overprescribing did not notably decrease between 2006 and 2012, and that 55 percent of hospital patients during that six-year period received at least one antibiotic during their stays.

Though the rate of antibiotic prescribing did not increase significantly overall, the number of powerful, broad-spectrum antibiotic prescriptions did, according to the study, a trend its authors called “worrisome.”

In an opinion piece accompanying the findings, Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., and Jeffrey A. Linder, M.D., from Harvard Medical School, write that doctors are generally aware that they prescribe too many antibiotics.

"We still give a lot of people antibiotics they don't need," they said in the commentary. "This is about the fact that doctors are human--doctors think patients want antibiotics.”

Antibiotic stewardship programs have popped up across the country to control the number of unneeded antimicrobial prescriptions--the major factor contributing to the rise of resistant superbugs, FierceHealthcare has previously reported.

The problem is an international one, and the United Nations will host a meeting this week to devise strategies to tackle the issue on the global level. The Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell would speak at the meeting to share the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, which has been in the works for a year.

“Over the last year, we have made significant progress on a number of fronts, but there is still a great challenge ahead of us,” Burwell said in a blog post.