DETROIT – Patients treated for certain infections are being prescribed a shorter duration of antibiotics under a new initiative under way at Henry Ford Health System.
Citing evidence-based national research, Henry Ford providers say a shorter duration of three to seven days is now the preferred therapy choice in place of the standard duration of seven to 14 days.
A 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a five-day antibiotic therapy was just as effective as a 10-day therapy for treating patients hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia. The readmission rate was also lower in those who received the shorter duration.
“Shorter courses of three to seven days are proven to be just as effective as longer, traditional courses, and can have less harmful side effects,” says Rachel Kenney, PharmD, a Henry Ford pharmacist who is co-leading the initiative under the health system’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program.
The initiative focuses the shorter therapy course for four common bacterial infections:
- Cellulitis, a mild skin infection.
- COPD acute exacerbation and community-acquired pneumonia.
- Urinary tract infections.
It’s estimated that approximately half of antibiotics prescribed for patients in the United States are inappropriate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because antibiotics only work for treating bacterial infections, they are often overused or misused, which has led to the development of antibiotic resistance. This means that germs are resistant to treatment with different types of antibiotic medicine. As a result, it can make infections stronger and harder to treat or result in harmful side effects.
Repeated and improper use of antibiotics are the primary causes of antibiotic resistance, in which bacteria don’t kill germs and the germs survive and continue to multiply, rendering medications less effective at curing or preventing infections.
David Willens, M.D., MPH, division head of Internal Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital, says using antibiotics less often or for shorter courses has two benefits:
- Helps patients avoid potential side effects.
- Reduces antibiotic resistance.
“Which means that antibiotics as a tool will be available to us for many, many more years when they’re really needed,” he says.
When antibiotics are unnecessary, Dr. Willens routinely recommends over-the-counter medicines for mild illnesses like colds, coughs and minor aches and pains. “If it’s not a condition that will be helped by an antibiotic, over-the-counter medications may be more effective,” he says.
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