A new protocol for prescribing antibiotics could help reduce resistance to the drugs, according to research.
The study, being presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in Barcelona, found the move could also reduce side-effects.
A team from the University of Dundee followed more than 500 patients with lower respiratory tract infections during a period of 12 months.
The new prescribing strategy included automatic stop dates, with time limits on prescriptions depending on the severity of an infection. In addition, pharmacists ensured that antibiotics were issued with stop dates that were clearly visible to patients so they would know exactly when to end their medication.
During the first half of the trial, researchers monitored patients’ current antibiotic use. In the second half, patients receiving antibiotics followed the new prescribing protocol.
During both phases of the study, the team examined side-effects from taking antibiotics, including new symptoms occurring during the period of treatment that were potentially caused by the drugs themselves. They also monitored patients’ length of stay in hospital and death rates.
The results showed that when the new protocol was followed, there was almost a 20% reduction in antibiotic use and a 40% reduction in antibiotic-related side-effects.
Lead author Dr Matthew Lloyd said: “The threat from growing resistance to antibiotics is increasing, which is in part attributable to inappropriately lengthy courses of antibiotics. Our study aimed to implement a simple system for preventing patients taking antibiotics for longer than they should.
“The results were promising and found that through prescribing automatic stop dates and working with our multidisciplinary colleagues, we can help prevent this problem and reduce patient harm.”
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