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The high cost of treating antibiotic resistance

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Each year, some 23,000 Americans die of antibiotic-resistant infections, according to the CDC. Treating a patient with an antibiotic-resistant infection, which typically requires complex treatments and extended hospital stays, adds $1,383 to the cost, according to Rollins researchers. That adds up to an additional $2.2 billion annually in health care costs.

Led by Dr. Kenneth E. Thorpe, Robert W. Woodruff Professor and Chair in the Department of Health Policy and Management, the study authors analyzed data from 2002 through 2014. They found that the number of bacterial infections remained relatively constant, totaling 13.5 million in 2002 and 14.3 million in 2014. However, the share of these infections that were antibiotic resistant doubled, from 5.2 percent to 11.0 percent, in the same period.

The study likely underestimates the total costs, according to Thorpe, because the data used came from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which does not include people in nursing homes, prisons, and other institutionalized sites of care. It is believed to be the first national estimate of the costs for treating antibiotic-resistant infections. The study appeared in the April issue of Health Affairs.

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"A Future Without Antibiotics?" (Emory Medicine, Winter 2017)

"Q&A on Antibiotic Resistance Threat" (Emory Medicine, Winter 2017)

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