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One in five hospital patients suffers serious reaction to an antibiotic
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Hospital patients are routinely given antibiotics—but one in five suffers a serious side effect or adverse event. And 20 per cent of those who do suffer a reaction shouldn't have been given the drug in the first place, new research has discovered.

Doctors often prescribe antibiotics as a just-in-case remedy in hospitals, believing the drugs to be safe, but 20 per cent of the patients will suffer at least one side effect, and the rate rises by 3 per cent for every 10 days on the drugs.

Common side effects include gastro-intestinal problems, kidney reactions and abnormalities in the blood, but some patients suffer Clostridium difficile infection, which can cause severe gut problems, including diarrhea. Nearly a quarter of the patients given an antibiotic end up spending more time in hospital because of the side effects.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Hospital analysed the progress of around 1,500 patients admitted to the hospital and for 30 days after they were allowed home.

Aside from the alarmingly high rate of side effects, the researchers discovered that 20 per cent of those affected shouldn't have been on an antibiotic in the first place as there was no real threat of bacterial infection.

"Too often, clinicians. . .think that antibiotics are probably not harmful. Antibiotics have the potential to cause real harm to patients," said researcher Pranita Tamma


(Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, 2017; doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.1938)

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