News & Commentary

Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Hike Costs

Antibiotic resistance increases the cost of treating a bacterial infection by $1,383 and adds $2.2 billion to the country’s health care spending, according to a study published in the April 2018 issue of Health Affairs.

The Emory University researchers who conducted the study said their tally probably underestimates the total costs because they used data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey that does not include people in nursing homes, prisons, and other institutionalized sites of care.

Inpatient care is, not surprisingly, the largest contributor to the incremental cost. The researchers also found that costs related to antibiotic resistance were—again, not a huge surprise—higher for older people and those in poor health.

Kenneth Thorpe, the lead author, and his colleagues found that while the number of bacterial infections has stayed roughly the same over the past decade, the percentage of those infections caused by antibiotic-­resistant bacteria increased from 5.2% (700,000 infections) in 2002 to 11% (1.6 million) in 2014.

The majority (61.2%) of antibiotic- resistant infections are associated with urinary tract infections.

The per-patient cost estimate that the researchers came up with is far less than the amounts that previous researchers have reported. Thorpe and his colleagues say part of the reason for the difference is that they used patients with bacterial infections as their control group rather than a broader group of patients.