Too many docs don't follow guidelines for prescribing antibiotics

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Doctors are not only prescribing too many antibiotics to patients, they're often prescribing the wrong kind of antibiotics, according to a new study.

Instead of treating patients with "first-line" antibiotics, recommended for simple infections, doctors are prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics for ear infections, sinus infections and sore throats--a practice that may contribute to drug resistance, according to the study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

For instance, more than 60 percent of adults suffering from a strep throat received a prescription for a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which is not recommended by medical guidelines. Forty percent of children also received the wrong type of antibiotic.  

The study revealed that more than half of patients received prescriptions for first-line antibiotics, which target fewer types of bacteria. The other patients received prescriptions for antibiotics for treating a broader spectrum of bacteria--and those carry an increased likelihood to cause drug resistance.

Doctors should be prescribing these first-line drugs in about 80 percent of the patients they treat, reports PBS’ Frontline; a number that takes into account patients found to be allergic to particular drugs and others who are unresponsive to initial treatment.

“We’re going to potentially lose the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs and may face a situation where there’s a patient with an infection caused by a bacteria that is resistant to all the antibiotics that are currently available,” David Hyun, M.D., an infectious diseases doctor with the Pew Charitable Trust’s antibiotic resistance project and co-author of the study, told Frontline.

And the danger of antibiotic-resistance is real. A gene typically found in common and deadly bacteria such as E. Coli is making bacteria resistant to antibiotics used to fight superbugs, as previous reported by FiercePracticeManagement.