Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said antibiotics save lives, but poor prescribing practices are putting patients at unnecessary risk for preventable allergic reactions, super-resistant infections and deadly diarrhea.
Errors in prescribing decisions also contribute to antibiotic resistance, making these drugs less likely to work in the future, he said.
A Vital Signs report by the CDC showed clinicians in some hospitals prescribe three times as many antibiotics than clinicians in other hospitals.
The report also found, about a third of the time, prescribing practices to treat urinary tract infections and prescriptions for the drug vancomycin included a potential error, such as it was given without proper testing.
"Improving antibiotic prescribing can save today's patients from deadly infections and protect lifesaving antibiotics for tomorrow's patients," Frieden said in a statement. "Healthcare facilities are an important part of the solution to drug resistance and every hospital in the country should have a strong antibiotic stewardship program."
The Vital Signs report showed that the most common types of infections for which hospital clinicians wrote prescriptions were urinary tract infections, lung infections and suspected infections caused by drug-resistant Staphylococcus bacteria, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
To help hospitals, whether large or small, develop antibiotic prescribing improvement programs -- also called antibiotic stewardship programs -- the CDC released practical tools that included a self-assessment checklist and an in-depth implementation document.