NEW ORLEANS (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Most antibiotic prescriptions written at the time of patient discharge at an academic hospital were inappropriate, according to a retrospective review of 2014 discharge data.

These drugs were prescribed despite the existence of a robust inpatient antibiotic stewardship program (ASP) at the hospital, Sarah Scarpato, MD , reported at IDWeek, an annual scientific meeting on infectious diseases.

The investigators reviewed prescriptions for all inpatient services, including 15 surgical services and 9 medical services, as well as teaching and nonteaching services.

Of 9,750 prescriptions written during the study year, 86% were for oral antibiotics and 14% were for outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy. Among a random sample of 150 patients discharged on antibiotics, 22.7% had no clinical indication of infection, 13% received an antibiotic with inappropriate spectrum of activity, 17% received an incorrect dose, 55% received an antibiotic course that was too long, and 7.3% received a course that was too short, Dr. Scarpato said at the combined annual meetings of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

A total of 57.7% of surgical patients and 57.6% of medical patients received an antibiotic prescription that was inappropriate.

“A whopping 70% of prescriptions had at least one error in drug choice, dose, indication, or duration,” she said.

“The most common scenarios in which an antibiotic use was not indicated were prolonged surgical prophylaxis and prolonged prophylaxis in patients who had neutropenic fever during their hospitalization but were no longer neutropenic on discharge. The most common infectious indications were consistent with previous data, with genitourinary, respiratory, and skin and soft tissue being the most common, followed by gastrointestinal,” Dr. Scarpato of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, said.

In addition, she noted, “100% of patients discharged from cardiothoracic surgery, ear/nose/throat surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, neurosurgery, and neurology had at least one error. Oncology was the medical service with the highest rate of inappropriate prescriptions at 80%. The rest, including infectious diseases, had error rates between 40% and 60%.”

Also in line with previous data, fluoroquinolones were the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, accounting for 23.5%, followed by cephalosporins, penicillins, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and metronidazole.

“Antibiotic prescription in the absence of an acceptable indication and inappropriate duration accounted for the vast majority – 76% – of inappropriate prescriptions,” Dr. Scarpato said, noting that this may be because of a failure by physicians to account for antibiotics given as an inpatient, a lack of familiarity with a patient’s course because of hand-offs, the writing of a prescription with a given duration expecting discharge on a different day, or a lack of familiarity with recommended treatment durations.

“On average, we saw an excess of 3.8 days of unnecessary antibiotics per patient,” she said. The range, however, was 18 days too few to 36 days too many. Further, readmission rates at days 7 and 30 were 6.4% and 19.4%, respectively, for patients discharged on antibiotics, compared with 3.70% and 13.79% hospital wide. The respective rates among those discharged on outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy were 5.6% and 16.4%, compared with 6.5% and 19.9% among those on oral antibiotic therapy.

The higher rates among those on oral vs. parenteral therapy may be because patients on outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy are followed closely by a team of infectious disease physicians and pharmacists, while those discharged on oral therapy are not routinely monitored, or it may reflect an unintended consequence of switching from parenteral to oral therapy at discharge, Dr. Scarpato said.

Transitions of care are vulnerable times for patients, she said, noting that “nearly a quarter of patients suffer an adverse event from an error in transition of care during hospital discharge, and up to half of those who suffer an adverse drug reaction at discharge are prescribed an antibiotic.”

Though limited by the retrospective and descriptive nature of the study, and the single-center design, the findings demonstrate “a significant and unmet need for antimicrobial stewardship at transition in care, even at institutions such as ours that have a substantial inpatient ASP,” Dr. Scarpato concluded.

Dr. Scarpato reported having no conflicts of interest.


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