Antibiotic Adverse Events Seen in Many Hospital Patients

Antibiotic Adverse Events Seen in Many Hospital Patients
Senior man lying on hospital bed taking medicine with glass of water. Elderly patient taking pills with water in hospital room. Old patient holding drugs and water in hand.

About 1 in 5 hospitalized patients that receive antibiotics have an adverse reaction to them, according to a new study that also found about 20% of the patients given antibiotics didn’t even need them.

Researchers with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore examined medical records of nearly 1,500 patients treated at the Johns Hopkins Hospital for various conditions, but all received at least 24 hours of antibiotic treatment. They were also monitored for any adverse events from antibiotics 30 days after they were released from the hospital.

Among patients that experienced side effects, gastrointestinal was the most common, accounting for 42% of cases, followed by kidney (24%) and blood abnormalities (15%). For each additional 10 days of antibiotics, the risk of side effects increased by 3%, researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Results also showed that 24% of patients stayed longer in the hospital than anticipated due to the side effects. And 61% needed additional diagnostic tests resulting from those adverse events.

“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,” lead author Pranita Tamma, MD, director of the Pediatric Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, said in a statement. “But that is not always the case. Antibiotics have the potential to cause real harm to patients.”

She added that the results should encourage patients to ask questions about their treatment and understand risks associated with medications. “I think it’s good for patients to ask their doctors about potential side effects and how to recognize them.”

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