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Be Antibiotics Aware: 6 Steps to Protect Your Patients

Various pills in small container.

November 18-24, 2020 is annual Antibiotics Awareness Week which highlights the steps everyone can take to improve antibiotic prescribing and use.

 

Antibiotic stewardship is vital for protecting patients from harm, improving treatment for patients who have infections, fighting antibiotic resistance, and reducing hospital costs and lengths of stay. While U.S. hospitals have made some strides in improving antibiotic use, many opportunities remain.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies show that 30 – 50 percent of antibiotics in hospitals are unnecessary or inappropriate. Further, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, killing more than 35,000 people. During Antibiotics Awareness Week and throughout the year, CompleteRx joins the CDC in efforts to raise awareness about the importance of safe antibiotic prescribing and use.

“When a patient is admitted, clinicians use the best available evidence about what’s going on. Too often, a broad-spectrum antibiotic is initially prescribed just to make sure we hit what we want to hit,” says Julie Rubin, PharmD, BCPS, CompleteRx director of clinical services. “We need to be using data and clinical guidelines a lot more effectively instead of turning to the ‘big guns’ right away.”

 

Antibiotic Safety Tips

To improve antibiotic prescribing, CompleteRx encourages healthcare professionals to:

  1. Develop and follow hospital guidelines on how to best evaluate and treat infections. “It’s important to partner with pharmacy to make sure the hospital is using appropriate therapy early on, reserving the broad-spectrum agents for a later time, if needed,” says Rubin.
  2. Optimize the use of diagnostic tests to pinpoint the true pathogen. Rubin says that while rapid diagnostic testing has become more sophisticated over the past few years, it can still take up to 72 hours to get results for certain tests.
  3. Prescribe the right antibiotic, at the right dose, for the for shortest effective duration. The goal is to optimize the treatment of the infection while minimizing the risks of side effects from antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. “Five or 10 years ago, two weeks was the standard length of therapy for many infections,” says Rubin. “Now we know that a five-day course of antibiotics is enough in many situations.”
  4. Once antibiotic therapy is initiated, reassess therapy at 48 or 72 hours for optimization or discontinuation when diagnostic test results and other clinical data are available.
  5. Conduct medication use evaluations. These evaluations, which should take place at least annually, help uncover potential problems with antibiotic use within a hospital. They can shed light on issues such as whether cultures were obtained before antibiotics were initiated and whether an antibiotic was used in accordance with hospital and/or national guidelines.
  6. For patients thought to be penicillin-allergic, evaluate them for true penicillin allergy before prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics. According to the CDC, approximately 10 percent of all U.S. patients report having an allergic reaction to a penicillin class antibiotic, but fewer than 1 percent of the population are truly allergic to penicillins.

 

The CDC’s Be Antibiotics Aware campaign has resources to help healthcare professionals educate patients and families about antibiotic use and risks for potential side effects. To learn how CompleteRx can help your hospital fight antibiotic resistance and improve antibiotic prescribing and use, contact us.

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