Hospitals send many patients home with 'risky' antibiotics, study finds

Even as hospitals attempt to reduce prescriptions of fluoroquinolones — a powerful but risky antibiotic group — many patients are still discharged with prescriptions for those drugs, upping their risk of superbug infections, a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found.

Fluoroquinolones have been linked to the rise of drug-resistant organisms, Clostridioides difficile infections and ruptures of Achilles tendons. The FDA has issued several warnings about their side effects.

Researchers from Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine reviewed prescriptions from 48 Michigan hospitals.

They found discharge-related prescriptions accounted for two-thirds of the fluoroquinolone supply prescribed to the nearly 12,000 patients treated for pneumonia or urinary tract infections.

The hospitals that said they are trying to cut fluoroquinolone use were twice as likely to discharge patients with a new prescription for a drug in that group, the researchers found.

Overall, one-third of the patients included in the study got a fluoroquinolone prescription at the end of their hospital stay, despite guidelines calling for restricted use.

"Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are easy to use but carry a lot of risk for patients and society at large," said lead study author Valerie Vaughn, MD. "These results show we need to focus on not just their use in hospitals, but also in the prescriptions that we send patients home with. Discharge-prescribing is a big loophole."

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