Threat of lawsuits force doctors to overprescribe antibiotics, a new study claims.
Researchers at New York Medical College believe that medical liability concerns may be triggering the increase of MRSA in healthcare settings by encouraging clinicians to prescribe antibiotics more often and more broadly than clinical circumstances and evidence-based guidelines warrant.
Census figures, statistics on population density of attorneys and physicians, and data on antibiotic utilization for the United States, Canada, and 15 European countries, were analyzed as part of the study.
The statistics were compared to the percentage of methicillin resistance among clinical isolates of S. aureus.
The results showed a strong correlation between the prevalence of methicillin resistance and density of attorneys in countries in Europe and North America.
But, no correlation was found between prevalence of methicillin resistance and physician density.
The surveys also confirmed that physicians were more concerned about medical liability in cases of under-prescribing antibiotics rather than by over-prescribing them.
George Sakoulas, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and lead author of the study, said: "The findings suggest that more research is needed to evaluate the potential impact of medical liability concerns on the medical care system.
"The study findings hint toward the importance of medical tort reform as a way to reduce healthcare costs and improve quality. Another way might be to foster more judicious prescription of antibiotics based on science and evidence rather than on risk aversion."
The study is published in the September-October issue of the American Journal of Therapeutics.