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Survey: Patients still prescribed unnecessary antibiotics

Thursday July 3, 2014
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Nurse practitioners and physicians said they prescribed antibiotics even though they were not certain the drugs were necessary about 20% of the time, according to a survey by WebMD and Medscape. Physician assistants say they prescribed antibiotics they were not sure were necessary about 25% of the time, according to the survey. More than 20% of patients said they had asked for antibiotics even when they did not know whether the treatment was needed.

The survey included responses from 1,174 patients and 796 healthcare providers, including 200 NPs. Only 5% said they “never” prescribed unnecessary antibiotics. The top three reasons for prescribing antibiotics without being sure of their necessity were:

Providers were “certain enough” that antibiotics were needed;

They were not certain but felt uncomfortable not treating a possible bacterial infection;

The patient was ill and laboratory testing might take too long.

Nearly 30% of providers said they prescribed antibiotics because patients requested them. “All of the answers regarding why antibiotic prescriptions are given, even when they might not be necessary, reflect one overriding core principle: We do not know what we are treating with certainty, and in the absence of certainty, fear of being wrong either compels providers to prescribe or empowers them to rationalize why prescribing is OK,” Brad Spellberg, MD, a professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, said in the survey.

The survey, compiled by WebMD editors Susan Yox, RN, EdD and Laurie Scudder, RN, NP, DNP, queried clinicians active on Medscape and random visitors to WebMD. It included statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that each year at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of antibiotic-resistant infections.

To read more results, go to www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20140627/antibiotic-resistance-survey


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