Being Safe in the Prescribing and Use of Antibiotics

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November 13, 2017, kicked off U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week and World Antibiotic Awareness Week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes this week with an updated educational effort, Be Antibiotics Aware: Smart Use, Best Care, to support the nation’s efforts to combat antibiotic resistance through improved use of these life-saving medications.

Each year, at least 2 million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a result. As part of U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on behalf of the Interagency Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) Task Force, has released a Progress Report to detail the significant progress during the first two years of implementation of the National Action Plan for Combatting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

“Antibiotic resistance is a critical public health concern, and this educational effort is an excellent opportunity to drive change in improving antibiotic use, give doctors the tools they need to improve antibiotic prescribing, and help patients better protect their health,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D.

Prescribing the right antibiotic at the right time, in the right dose, and for the right duration helps fight antibiotic resistance, protects patients from unnecessary side effects, and helps ensure these life-saving medicines will be available for future generations.

Though the United States has made progress toward optimal prescribing and use of antibiotics for patients, there is still room for improvement. The Be Antibiotics Aware effort helps inform healthcare professionals and patients about proper antibiotic use and encourages open discussion among doctors and patients.

Antibiotics are critical tools for treating a number of common infections, such as pneumonia, and for life-threatening conditions including sepsis. However, when patients take antibiotics unnecessarily, they are at risk for side effects and get no benefit from the drugs. Minor side effects can include rash, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and yeast infections. Major side effects can include allergic reactions and Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) infection, which can cause severe diarrhea and colon damage and can cause death.

“Despite prescribing guidelines, some healthcare professionals report giving antibiotics when they aren’t needed because of fear of misdiagnosis or pressure from patients,” said Lauri Hicks, D.O., director, Office of Antibiotic Stewardship, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, CDC. “CDC encourages healthcare professionals and patients to talk through the best ways to feel better and what treatment options are most effective.”

The Be Antibiotics Aware educational effort also aligns with antibiotic stewardship activities mentioned in the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB), supports the National Action Plan to Prevent Health Care-Associated Infections (HAIs): Road Map to Elimination, and complements other patient safety initiatives, such as the Get Ahead of Sepsis education effort launched in August 2017.

There are many ways to get involved in U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017. Visit to learn more about how to participate.

CDC is a global leader in efforts to improve antibiotic prescribing and use practices. Read more about Antibiotic Use in the United States, including progress and opportunities. These efforts are supported by CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative. To learn more about antibiotic resistance, visit

US Department of Health and Human Services

CDC works 24/7 protecting America’s health, safety and security. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are curable or preventable, chronic or acute, or from human activity or deliberate attack, CDC responds to America’s most pressing health threats. CDC is headquartered in Atlanta and has experts located throughout the United Statesand the world.

SOURCE Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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