Antibiotic stewardship: new guidelines focus on practical advice

Preauthorization of broad-spectrum antibiotics and prospective review after two or three days of treatment should form the cornerstone of antibiotic stewardship programs to ensure the right drug is prescribed at the right time for the right diagnosis.


Photo: Physician extends her hand with a single pill in it

The new guidelines on the use of antibiotics contain a number of components that will help ensure the implementation of an effective antibiotic stewardship program; © bonninturina

These are among the numerous recommendations included in new guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

"Initially, antibiotic stewardship was more focused on cost savings, and physicians responded negatively to that, because they often felt it was best to give patients the newest, most expensive drug," said Tamar Barlam, MD, lead co-author of the guidelines, director of the antibiotic stewardship program at Boston Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at Boston University Medical School. "While these programs do save hospitals money, their most important benefit is that they improve patient outcomes and reduce the emergence of antibiotic resistance. When we say stewardship, we really mean stewardship, and increasingly, doctors are realizing it is important and necessary."

The White House has called for hospitals and healthcare systems to implement antibiotic stewardship programs by 2020 to ensure appropriate use of these vital drugs and reduce resistance, an escalating problem that threatens the ability to effectively treat often life-threatening infections.

The new guidelines replace those originally created to help with the development of programs when antibiotic stewardship was in its infancy, and instead focus on specific strategies that the evidence suggests are most beneficial to ensure the program will be effective and sustainable. They also note it is key that these programs tailor interventions based on local issues, resources and expertise. To ensure that, the guidelines recommend the programs be led by physicians and pharmacists and rely on the expertise of infectious diseases specialists.

"We want hospital administrators to understand the importance of giving antibiotic stewardship their full support to ensure its success," said Sara Cosgrove, MD, MS, lead co-author of the guidelines, president-elect of SHEA and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, and director of the antimicrobial stewardship program and associate hospital epidemiologist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. "Distributing a few brochures or holding grand rounds won't do it. It's vital that antibiotic stewardship be integrated into the hospital's culture and that infectious disease specialists guide strategies that have been shown to work."

The guidelines note that more research needs to be done to determine how to ensure antibiotic stewardship is most effective. However, the best evidence to date suggests a number of components will help ensure the implementation of an effective antibiotic stewardship program.; Source: Infectious Diseases Society of America

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