Patients receiving ongoing medical care at home may be at risk of over-prescription of antibiotics, suggests a study of Canadian home-care patients.
It indicated that more should be done to monitor antibiotic use in home-care patients to avoid misuse that could decrease the efficacy of the drugs over time.
The finding suggests, "physicians may be overly cautious with younger patients", said Dr. Mark Loeb, one of the study's authors.
In contrast, patients with longer life expectancies were less likely to receive antibiotics, despite the fact they would likely benefit more from the drugs compared to patients with poorer life expectancies.
"Taken together, our results reveal tremendous variability in how and why antibiotics are prescribed, and that overuse in the home-care population is likely," explained Loeb said.
"Younger and sicker patients seem to be at added risk for misuse and should be the focus of further study to assess the appropriateness of antibiotic use at home," he added.
Adding concern was the fact that the most common class of antibiotics prescribed in the study was fluoroquinolones, a class of drugs often associated with increased rates of resistance. Overuse of these drugs could weaken their efficacy, threatening their effectiveness against these and other emerging infections.
The researchers used data on more than 125,000 patients receiving home care for more than 60 days from 2006 to 2007.
The study has been published in the Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.