Antibiotic stewardship—ensuring that these drugs are used only when necessary and prescribed appropriately—is proven to slow the emergence of resistance and improve patient outcomes. Given that inappropriate antibiotic prescribing continues to be prevalent in the U.S., and with early indications of high levels of antibiotic use among COVID-19 patients, stewardship efforts have never been more important. But what happens when doctors don’t see a problem with their prescribing?
According to a new national survey from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the American Medical Association, U.S. primary care physicians generally agree that antibiotic resistance and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing are a threat, but most do not think these are problems in their own practice. Additionally, although the majority of doctors (almost 72%) agree that stewardship programs are necessary to reduce antibiotic resistance, almost half of respondents (about 47%) feel they would need “a lot of help” to implement stewardship interventions in their own practice.
Despite these barriers, there are several specific strategies that doctors say could help spur them to implement stewardship efforts in their practice.
All public health stakeholders have a role to play in improving antibiotic use, and our survey shows that state health departments, payers, and health systems are particularly well positioned to help drive progress.
Much work remains to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and improving antibiotic prescribing through expanded stewardship efforts is critical. Policymakers, insurers, state health departments, health systems, and other public health stakeholders should take a close look at the survey’s complete findings and use them to identify and implement effective strategies to ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately. Doing so will help protect the efficacy of antibiotics and save lives.
David Hyun, M.D., is a senior officer and Rachel Zetts, M.P.H., is an officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ antibiotic resistance project.