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Almost half of all hospital patients are given antibiotics, often unnecessarily placing them at risk of potential side effects and increasing the risk of drug-resistant pathogens, according to the findings of new research.
In a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) found that about half of patients who were hospitalized reported being prescribed antibiotics. However, the study suggests that many of the antibiotics were only given as a preventative, despite having no signs or significant risk of infection.
The survey looked at 11,282 patients in 183 hospitals in 10 states between May and September 2011. Researchers indicate that 49.9% reported having been given at least one antibiotics during their hospital stay. About a third of all patients were given two antibiotics, 12.1% received three, and 5.4% were given four different antibiotics.
Despite the widespread use of antibiotics in the hospitals, researchers found that only 77.5% actually had infections. Another 12.2% were given antibiotics because they underwent surgery, and researchers said that there was no documented rationale for why 7% of patients were given antibiotics.
Levaquin, Vancocin, Rocephin and Zocyn, or their generic equivalents, were the four most commonly prescribed antibiotics, CDC researchers found.
Overprescription of Antibiotics
“Inappropriate antimicrobial drug use is associated with adverse events in hospitalized patients and contributes to the emergence and spread of resistant pathogens,” researchers wrote. “Targeting effective interventions to improve antimicrobial use in the acute care setting requires understanding hospital prescribing practices.
A number of recent studies have warned of antibiotic overuse.
In September, researchers indicated that hospitals throughout the country are increasingly treating illnesses with several different types of antibiotics at the same time, increasing the patient’s risk of future infection.
The practice is typically done to treat illnesses which are difficult to diagnose early. Yet, the study found when questioned later after the diagnosis was obtained, patients were still on several types of antibiotics.
Last year, researchers concluded despite numerous warnings from health experts concerning antibiotic resistant bacteria, many doctors were still misusing and overprescribing antibiotics.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that six out of every 10 times a patient complains of a sore throat a doctor will prescribe antibiotics, even though only one out of every 10 cases can effectively be treated with antibiotics.
Antibiotic Side Effects
Some say one reason doctors are so cavalier about prescribing antibiotics is that they are often misled about the safety of the drugs.
Not only can misuse and overuse promote the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria, a concept doctors have been warned about repeatedly over the past several years, but several antibiotics carry serious side effects, which may not be fully understood within the medical community.
Levaquin, which is one of the most widely prescribed antibiotics in the United States, is a powerful drug that is part of a class of medications known as fluoroquinolones, which have been tied to several health risks, including severe nerve damage, tendon ruptures and other problems.
In recent months, a growing number of Levaquin nerve damage lawsuits have been filed in courts throughout the United States alleging the the makers of the antibiotic have provided misleading and inadequate warnings about the risk of peripheral neuropathy for years.
While warnings about the link between fluoroquinolone antibiotics and peripheral neuropathy have been on the drugs for years, prior warnings on Levaquin, Cipro, Avelox and other members of this class misleadingly indicated that the nerve damage was rare and often resolved when the drugs were no longer used.
In August 2013, the FDA forced manufacturers of Levaquin and other similar antibiotics to update warning labels to indicate that they may cause permanent nerve damage, which can continue long after the medication is no longer used.
Researchers this August published a study in the medical journal Neurology, which backed up the FDA’s claims of fluoroquinolone peripheral neuropathy. The findings confirmed that side effects of Levaquin and other fluoroquinolones may double the risk of peripheral neuropathy, leading researchers to warn that doctors should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of these antibiotics when prescribing them to patients for less severe infections or conditions.
Peripheral neuropathy involves the development of pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness, and sensitivity to light touches, temperature and motion in the arms and legs. The problem can arise at any time during treatment with the antibiotics and can last for months or years after the patient has stopped taking the drug, despite prior claims by the drug makers that the events were rare and typically resolve once the antibiotics are no longer used.
As individuals throughout the United States learn that long-term problems with peripheral neuropathy may have been caused by the antibiotics, a growing number of Levaquin lawsuits, Cipro lawsuits and Avelox lawsuits are being considered, alleging that doctors never would have prescribed the antibiotics if proper warnings about the risk of nerve damage had been provided.