Study Finds Surge in Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescriptions Post-COVID

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Healthcare professionals prescribe antibiotics to treat people with bacterial infections. Even though antibiotics can save lives when used properly, their misuse can be very dangerous for health as they can increase several complications. According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and Boston Medical Center, healthcare professionals prescribe antibiotics to treat people with diseases they cannot treat in the United States.   

The research, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, used data from almost 37.5 million children and adults. This data was collected from private insurance or Medicare Advantage plans from 2017 to 2021. In this study, researchers tried to understand how the appropriateness of prescribing antibiotics changed after the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020.  

When researchers observed collected data, they found that the number of antibiotic prescriptions that were not needed was increased as compared to the time before the pandemic. The situation worsened, even though the percentage of people getting the wrong medications went down in the early months of the pandemic. The number of wrong prescriptions increased more by December 2021. It can be easily seen that more patients are receiving antibiotics for diseases that don’t need them. This will contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.   

This study also revealed that older people with medical advantages were especially at higher risk, as 30% of them were given the wrong antibiotics that were not needed by the end of 2021. The standard diagnosis linked to wrong antibiotic prescriptions was “contact with and suspected exposure to COVID-19” between March 2020 and December 2021.   

In this study, researchers also found that 28% to 32% of antibiotic prescriptions were not recorded, which made it hard to know if they were necessary. One of the researchers says the research results show it is essential to stop healthcare professionals from prescribing antibiotics when they are unnecessary. This will help antibiotics work effectively in the future.   

This research will be helpful for healthcare professionals as it shows the increase in the number of wrong antibiotic prescriptions. Healthcare professionals should not prescribe antibiotics in situations that can not be treated with them.  

Reference Link:   

Kao-Ping Chua et al., Changes in the Appropriateness of U.S. Outpatient Antibiotic Prescribing after the COVID-19 Outbreak: An Interrupted Time Series Analysis of 2016-2021 Data, Clinical Infectious Diseases (2024).   

DOI: 10.1093/cid/ciae135  


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