August 11, 2022

Most antibiotics prescribed to the elderly are unnecessary

According to a recent study, three out of four antibiotic prescriptions for patients aged 65 and over are unnecessary.

According to the preliminary results of a study presented to the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon.

“Our results suggest that black and Hispanic/Latin patients may not be treated appropriately and receive prescriptions for antibiotics even when not indicated,” said study author Eric Young, of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, in a statement.

Especially for elderly patients, the stakes of these unnecessary prescriptions are high, Young said. “In older adults, inappropriate prescribing in primary care is associated with a wide range of adverse outcomes, including emergency hospital visits and admissions, adverse drug events, and poorer quality of life,” Young said.

For the study, researchers looked at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on prescriptions written during outpatient visits for more than 5.7 billion adults and 1.3 billion children between 2009 and 2016.

Overall, 11% of those patient visits resulted in antibiotic prescriptions, according to the analysis.

Antibiotics should only be prescribed for bacterial infections, which can include strep throat, bloodstream infections, bacterial pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and certain types of ear infections. Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections, such as the flu, and should not be used for viral illnesses.

Most often, when antibiotics were used inappropriately in the study, doctors offered the drugs to treat viral infections, bronchitis or skin conditions unrelated to bacterial infections, according to the analysis.

One limitation of the study is that it only looked at outpatients, not antibiotic use inside hospitals. Another drawback is that the researchers lacked certain data that could have influenced prescribing decisions, such as patient allergies or certain diagnoses that might justify the use of antibiotics. The results have not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, a process that usually involves independent verification of the results.

Although the study was not designed to determine why so many patients received antibiotics they did not need, it is possible that clinicians made decisions based at least in part on the fact that they thought people might return to the doctor if their condition took a turn for the worse, Young said.

“We know doctors typically send patients home with antibiotics if they suspect their symptoms may be leading to infection,” Young said. “This practice becomes more common when patients are unlikely to return for a follow-up visit or receive no established care in a clinic or hospital system, which occurs more frequently in minority populations. .”