Antibiotic Use Is Common in Hospice Care

A new study finds that use of antibiotics is quite common among terminal patients who are in hospice care.

The researchers used data based on the electronic health records of adults patients discharged to hospice care from Oregon Health & Science University over a three-year period ending in 2013.

They found that twenty-one percent of the hospice patients left with a prescription for antibiotics, even though more than one fourth didn’t have a documented infection during their hospital admission. Over one quarter of the patients given antibiotic prescriptions were still taking the medicines in the final week of their life.

Concerns about antibiotic use for people in hospice care include medication side effects and adverse events, increased risk of subsequent opportunistic infections, prolonging the dying process and increasing the risk of developing – and transmitting – antibiotic resistant microorganisms.

“The frequency and prevalence of antibiotic use in this patient population is a concern,” says Jon Furuno, Pharm.D, an associate professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy and the lead author of the study. “Antibiotics themselves can have serious side effects that sometimes cause new problems, a factor that often isn’t adequately considered. And in terminally-ill people they may or may not work anyway.”

The study was published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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