Antibiotic Use and Misuse in Hospitals (Part 1: Is Anything Changing?)

For years now, watchdogs and researchers have been sounding the alarm about the overuse of antibiotics in the healthcare industry causing an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria commonly called “superbugs”—a phenomenon that has been well-documented over the years. The nagging question: What has changed since this news came to light? What is being done to reverse the trend of antibiotic misuse in our hospitals?

The answer: Not much, if recent news reports are correct. Let’s look at a few recent articles that reinforce the scope of this problem, along with a few signs of hope.

Time: No Real Change in the Rate of Prescriptions

As this article in Time reports, the subject of antibiotic overuse worldwide was on the agenda last fall at the UN General Assembly—one of the rare moments that the UNGA discusses such issues—suggesting most nations recognize the problem but are still struggling to find a solution. The article goes on to state that even after all that has been done to raise awareness, doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics at about the same rate that they have all along, not only prescribing unnecessary antibiotics but prescribing the wrong medicines for the wrong bacteria. (The CDC estimates at least 30 percent of all antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary.)

NPR: Antibiotic Use on the Rise Worldwide

This sobering report from NPR indicates that low-income countries around the world have been particularly deaf to the warnings about antibiotic overuse. In fact, worldwide, antibiotic use is climbing, not receding—increasing by a whopping 65% between 2000 and 2015, according to the report.

South China Morning Post: A “Ticking Time Bomb”

While this article doesn’t address issues directly in the U.S., it could have grave implications for us going forward. Numerous reports state that antibiotic-resistant microbes are on the rise especially in Asia, and this article in the South China Morning Post highlights that the overuse of antibiotics as a “hedge” drug for livestock in farms across Asia has resulted in these resistant bacteria infecting many drinking water supplies—creating a “ticking time bomb” scenario that could impact the rest of us if changes are not implemented.

North Carolina Health News: A Glimmer of Hope

If the nations and our healthcare industries aren’t heeding the warnings, at least some patients are heeding them—by choosing not to fill unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. As this hopeful article reports, Blue Cross Blue Shield monitored prescription data for patients compared to the number of claims, and they discovered that North Carolinians in particular had been filling significantly fewer antibiotic prescriptions—just 66.8 prescriptions per 100 patients in 2017, down from 87.4 in 2010. This news suggests perhaps our best immediate hope for curbing the problem: Patients taking responsibility for their own healthcare choices and avoiding taking antibiotics as deterrents—instead taking them only when absolutely necessary.

If you believe you have suffered significant damage to your health due to medical errors or incorrect prescriptions, our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Call our offices to learn more.