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Medication-related Problems Series, Part 2- Medication USe Without an Indication: Antibiotic Use

Posted Jun 10 2009 6:43pm
David Berbick, PharmD Candidate
Unitversity of Florida College of Pharmacy

Medicines enable people to continue life and also to live life more comfortably and abundantly. The group of people that are most affected in this age of medicine are the elderly, who consume the most medicines. When these medications are used appropriately, they can do wonders like healing ailments and controlling chronic conditions. This is the key: appropriately, meaning used by the proper route of administration, at the right times, and under the right conditions. But there is another important part of the term appropriate use that is often left out or overlooked by some seniors throughout the country- an appropriate indication. There are a large number of patients in the older population that are taking medications that they have no reason to be taking. These medications can also have many dangerous interactions with their current medication regimen.

There are certain classes of medications that are more likely to be being taken without any indication at all. One medication class that is most likely to be prescribed and over-prescribed is the antibiotics. Many patients feel as if they must be written a prescription at the end of each doctor visit. As a result, more and more physicians feel that they must start to prescribe something for every patient that walks through their office doors. In the case of the common cold prescription that the doctor writes is for an antibiotic medication. Antibiotic medications are prescribed to treat colds, when colds are usually viral in origin. This can have not only the usual adverse effects such as unneeded side effects and drug interactions, but in the case of antibiotics there is another concern, resistance. What this does is it causes the body to make bacteria that are resistant to that medication in the future. This will result in infections that are no longer curable by the antibiotic agents that they are supposed to be susceptible to. What can result are super-infections within hospital wards, communities, and nursing homes. These infections are troublesome because they take considerable costs and efforts to treat and limit. People even die of cases of sepsis related to infections by micro-organisms that are resistant to all known antibiotic modalities. This shows just how important that it is for patients, especially seniors, to take only appropriate medications that are both safe and effective for their ailment. When in doubt, ask your pharmacist.
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