CDC: Antibiotics misuse puts patients at risk for superbugs

A new government report warns antibiotics are being misused, especially in hospitals. The new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said doctors at some hospitals are prescribing antibiotics three times as often as others, which puts patients at risk for deadly superbug infections. More than 23,000 Americans die each year from drug-resistant bacteria.

CBS News medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips told the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts that the findings show there are two things going wrong in hospitals: Antibiotics are being overprescribed and, according to the report, they are largely unregulated.

"About half of patients before they leave the hospital are given an antibiotic, and in many of those cases they didn't need it," she said.

Phillips said that, when antibiotics are actually needed, doctors and hospitals "aren't necessarily making the best choices.

"We're reaching for the big guns, the strongest antibiotics, when something more narrow spectrum or basically weaker would have the same effect," she said.

Phillips said that antibiotic misuse contributes to the problem of superbugs.

"These are drug-resistant bacteria where nothing available to us can treat them, and what the CDC says is that superbugs are emerging faster than new antibiotics to treat them," she said.

The CDC report not only points out issues with antibiotic misuse, but Phillips said it also offers a "feasible solution" to the problem.

"The CDC is looking for $30 million over the next five years to basically set up labs in different regions of the country so that the moment a new strain emerges we can be all over it and eradicate it before it spreads out into the community," she said.

The CDC said that this program is going to save around $1 billion in health care costs going forward as well as prevent 20,000 deaths.

However, Phillips noted that the issue just isn't about how doctors and hospitals prescribe antibiotics, but also what patients expect from their physicians.

"Obviously, doctors are responsible here, right? We do need to step away from the prescription pad, but that's done a lot more easily when, patients, we're all on the same page," said Phillips. "Not a day goes by that I don't have a patient who says, 'I know what I need. I need an antibiotic. I'm not leaving your office until I get one.'"

To see Dr. Holly Phillips full interview, watch the video in the player above.

  • Shoshana Davis

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