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Superbugs: a growing health menace grounded in overprescribing

Question: When you’re truly ailing, where do you go to get better?

Answer: Not necessarily the hospital.

In addition to all of the evidence that has emerged in recent years showing that hospitals are not particularly safe environments for patients, new study findings are driving that point home with emphasis.

It has long been known that hospitalized patients across the country, including in Ohio, suffer a heightened risk of acquiring infections. That seems anything but remarkable, given the tight confines of any given hospital environment and the pervasive illness that centrally permeates it.

What is most notable in a recent study authored by researchers from the CDC is the extent to which some doctors’ cavalier — arguably sloppy and ill-considered — prescribing habits are contributing in a major way to a growing health menace across the country. According to the study, some physicians prescribe antibiotics at a rate three times higher than other, more prudent physicians.

That can be extremely dangerous, and a number of medical commentators say that the practice is promoting a major health crisis, namely, drug-resistant bacteria. Not only do some patients who consume large quantities of antibiotics over time become resistant to treatment for serious infections, but the general population is also compromised by the growth of new and hard-to-treat forms of bacteria.

The CDC study calls that a “nightmare” and is recommending that hospitals institute an “antibiotic stewardship” program. The central aim of that initiative is to ensure that patients consistently receive proper treatment. That, in turn, necessitates that many prescribers lock up rather than dole out the heavy guns in their antibiotic arsenals that they readily hand out to patients.

Source:  Frontline, “CDC: Some doctors contribute to superbug spread,” Sarah Childress, March 6, 2014