The Antibiotic Use and Resistance reporting module will launch this week,Tom Frieden,director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,said at a National Press Club luncheon Tuesday. It will allow any hospital in the country to electronically track all antibiotics prescribed in hospitals and for hospitals to track patterns of drug resistance in patients with infections.
“That will allow doctors to be empowered with the right information at the right time to make the right decision,so that they can give patients antibiotics that are needed that are neither too broad nor too narrow,” Frieden said.
Two million Americans get sick with antibiotic-resistant infections each year,according to the CDC. The agency estimates that 23,000 of those people die as a result. Some bacteria have become resistant to almost all available antibiotics.
“Antibiotic resistance could affect any of us,” Frieden said. “Although the problem is big and although it’s getting worse,it’s not too late to reverse it.”
The rise in antibiotic-resistant infections is in part because of the overuse of antibiotics.
“Many antibiotics that are being used are not necessary,” Frieden said. “We’ve done a study that suggests that a third of all antibiotics being prescribed in this country are either unnecessary or inappropriate.”
If antibiotics are used too often or inappropriately,they can stop working effectively when needed,according to the CDC.
But certain medications,which are safer for patients,are underutilized. Frieden said aspirin is prescribed about half as often as it should be for patients who have had or are at risk of having a heart attack. The risk and benefits of antibiotics and medication must be weighed when prescribed,he said,which is part of why tracking prescriptions with the new index will be useful.
The program is part of the agency’s National Healthcare Safety Network,an infection-tracking system that allows more than 12,000 participating facilities to receive information on infection problem areas and measure the progress of prevention efforts.
Frieden’s talk came on the heels of revelations that CDC scientists mishandled dangerous pathogens – including potentially lethal anthrax and bird flu. He testified before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week and couldn’t escape the luncheon without a few questions on the subject.
“I think the committee very appropriately had concerns,” he said. ‘We want to do things to improve safety – but don’t take us at our word. We will review and share the results of that and make sure what we do we do transparently.”
The CDC has shut down the two labs involved in the anthrax and bird flu incidents and has suspended the transfer of samples from high-security labs until their safety procedures are reviewed. A group of outside experts will advise the agency on biosafety as well.
“Despite the recent incidents,the fact is the CDC has more than 15,000 staff,” Frieden said. “We’re there 24/7 to protect people from threats,whether they’re infectious disease,environmental threats,or chronic disease – cancer,heart disease – whether they’re intentionally created,man-made,or naturally occurring,whether they’re in this country or anywhere in the world.”
Reach reporter Erin Bell at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.