A new study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins found that a fifth of patients prescribed antibiotics suffered side effects. It was also found that some of those patients did not even need the antibiotics to begin with.
The research team analyzed data of about 1,500 adult, former patients of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The adverse side effects ranged from kidney abnormalities to gastrointestinal abnormalities. The findings only add to the growing evidence that prescribed antibiotics should not be regarded as just benign, the researchers said.
“Too often, clinicians prescribe antibiotics even if they have a low suspicion for a bacterial infection, thinking that even if antibiotics may not be necessary, they are probably not harmful. But that is not always the case,” Pranita Tamma, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins said. “Each time we think to prescribe an antibiotic, we need to pause and ask ourselves, does this patient really need an antibiotic?”
The data examined for the study included medical records of patients, who were admitted to the hospital for a variety of reasons, including chronic disease and trauma, in 2013 and 2014. The patients were administered a day’s worth or more of antibiotic treatment during their hospital stays. The patients were followed over a period of time after being discharged from the hospital.
The researchers discovered that 20 percent of the patients suffered one or more antibiotic-related side effect. With every 10 additional days of antibiotic treatment the risks of adverse effects increased by 3 percent. Gastrointestinal abnormalities were the most common side at 42 percent, followed by kidney abnormalities at 24 percent and blood at 15 percent.
The study group was observed for the development of C. diff or Clostridium difficile infection and new multidrug-resistant infections for up to 90 days. The antibiotic treatment contributed to the development of C. diff in 4 percent of the patients and the development of the latter type in 6 percent of the patients.
Other medical complications including additional diagnostic tests (61 percent) and prolonged hospital stays (24 percent) were also reported.
After two infectious disease experts analyzed the cases, it was determined that 19 percent of the prescribed antibiotics were clinically unnecessary in the first place. There was no evidence of bacterial infection found in those cases.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on June 12, 2017.