Inappropriate use of antibiotics and consequent antibiotic-resistant infections waste $20 billion per year, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
To reach this conclusion, Rebecca Roberts and colleagues at Cook County (Stroger) Hospital quantified antibiotic resistant infections (ARIs), total costs, length of stay, length of ICU stay, surgeries and mortality rates for 1,391 high-risk adult patients that were hospitalized in the year 2000.
The scientists found that 188 (13.5%) patients developed an ARI. The medical costs attributable to ARIs ranged from $18,588 to $29,069 per patient. In these patients, length of stay was 6.4–12.7 days longer than in those who did not develop ARIs. Excess mortality in the ARI group was 6.5%.
Common ARIs include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), as well as many other bacteria that are becoming resistant to common antibiotics.
“Significant health and economic benefits could be realized through effective interventions to reduce antimicrobial-resistant and healthcare-associated infections,” said Roberts in a press release.
Stuart Levy, a senior author on the paper added that his study “demonstrates the enormous cost savings that could be realized for both the health care system and to individuals and their families…these costs will continue to increase if we don’t practice a more prudent usage of antibiotics.”
Levy added that more studies are needed to determine how much could be saved at a national level if we took steps to slow the rise of resistant infections, especially those acquired in hospital settings.