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New research suggests that one out of every five patients who receive antibiotic treatment in a hospital may experience adverse side effects.
In a study published last week in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore highlight the risks posed by hospital antibiotic therapy, which has been linked to a variety of serious health complications.
Researchers looked at medical records for 1,488 adult patients examined for 30 days after antibiotic therapy, looking for gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal and neurological side effects, as well as the development of problems with the skin, liver, heart and kidneys. They also looked for the development of a Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection, as well as problems with multidrug-resistant infections or “superbugs”.
According to the findings, 20% of the patients experienced at least 1 antibiotic-associated adverse drug event (ADE). They also found that 20% of the non-clinically indicated antibiotic regimens were linked to side effects, which included seven cases of C. difficile infections.
The data indicates that for every 10 days of additional antibiotic treatment the patients underwent, the risk of an adverse side effect increased by three percent. The most common problems were gastrointestinal, kidney and liver problems.
“Although antibiotics may play a critical role when used appropriately, our findings underscore the importance of judicious antibiotic prescribing to reduce the harm that can result from antibiotic-associated ADEs,” the researchers warned.
Health care professionals and scientists warn that the unnecessary use of antibiotics contributes to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria, making it more difficult to treat infections. Research published in March by the CDC indicates one-in-seven hospital acquired infections are now antibiotic resistant.
More than 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic resistant bacteria and 2 million become sick due to the so-called superbugs every year, previous studies have found.
A report issued by the British government warns antibiotic-resistant bacteria will cause nearly 10 million deaths each year by the year 2050, unless drastic measures are taken to curb antibiotic overuse.
In addition to concerns about the superbug risk, unnecessary use of antibiotics also exposes individuals to potentially serious health risks, like those highlighted in this study, which may not be justified when the antibiotics there is not an underlying infection the drugs can treat.
In recent years, a popular class of antibiotics, known as fluoroquinolones, have been among the most widely used drugs on the market, including blockbuster brand names like Levaquin, Avelox and Cipro. However, due to the large number of side effects of fluoroquinolones, which have been linked to reports of peripheral neuropathy, tendon damage, aortic aneurysm, aortic dissection and other problems, the FDA recently warned doctors that the drugs should not be considered for uncomplicated infections, such as acute bacterial sinusitis, acute bacterial exacerbation of chronic bronchitis and common urinary tract infections.