For one-third of the patients, prescribing practices to treat urinary tract infections and one-third of the orders for one broad spectrum antibiotic vancomycin contained potential errors. Those errors included giving patients antibiotics without appropriate testing to match their bacterial infection with the drug, or giving patients the drugs for too long.
Frieden made his remarks during a news conference as the agency launched this month's Vital Signs, a special Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report intended to "sound the alarm about health threats." He said the issue is one with a "huge impact on patient safety."
The survey, which was conducted in 2010, used data from the CDC's national Hospital Drug Database (HDD) collected from a representative sample of medical surgical units at 323 hospitals, and data from the agency's Emerging Infections Program (EIP), a network of state health departments and academic institutions to take a snapshot of antibiotic appropriateness in 183 hospitals.
More than half (55.7%) of patients discharged from those 323 hospitals received antibiotics and antibiotic use could potentially have been improved for 37.2% of the patients who received them, the survey results concluded.
And if hospitals could reduce the use of antibiotics by just 30%, they could see a 26% reduction in C. diff infections, Frieden said.