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New CDC Vital Signs: Antibiotic Prescribing Putting Patients at Risk

Antibiotics can be lifesaving, but poor prescribing practices put hospital patients at risk for preventable allergic reactions, super-resistant infections, and deadly diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile.  These practices also drive antibiotic resistance, further endangering the future of these miracle drugs and the patients who need them.  For some hospital patients, it is already too late.  We must change prescribing practices now.

According to a new CDC Vital Signs report:

  • About one-third of the time, prescribing practices to treat urinary tract infections and prescriptions for the critical and common drug vancomycin included a potential error. This means that many patients are given drugs without proper testing or evaluation, or were given drugs for too long.
  • Clinicians in some hospitals prescribed three times as many antibiotics as clinicians in other hospitals, even though patients were receiving care in similar areas of each hospital. This difference suggests the need to improve prescribing practices. 
  • A 30 percent reduction in the antibiotics most likely to cause C. difficile infections can reduce these deadly infections by more than 25 percent.

To help hospitals develop antibiotic prescribing improvement programs (also called “antibiotic stewardship” programs), CDC has developed an accompanying checklist and  Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs.

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Vital Signs Links

English [1.40MB]
Spanish [1.13MB]


Tom Frieden, MD, MPH

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH


Photo: Dr Thomas Frieden

"Improving antibiotic prescribing can save today’s patients from deadly superbugs and protect lifesaving antibiotics for tomorrow’s patients. Health care facilities are an important part of the solution to drug resistance and every hospital in the country should have a strong antibiotic stewardship program."

Tom Frieden, MD, MPH - Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Arjun Srinivasan, MD

Arjun Srinivasan, MD


Photo: Arjun Srinivasan, MD

"Today’s antibiotics are miracle drugs, but they are endangered. CDC’s new materials provide core elements and practical tools for beginning and advancing antibiotic stewardship programs."

Arjun Srinivasan, MD - Associate Director for Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, CDC

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