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Manitoba doctors increasingly prescribing antibiotics inappropriately, study finds

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Manitoba doctors are increasingly prescribing antibiotics for conditions that don’t need the medication and too often prescribe the wrong antibiotic when they are needed, a new study shows – Oct 19, 2021

Manitoba doctors are increasingly prescribing antibiotics for conditions that don’t need the medication and too often prescribe the wrong antibiotic when they are needed, a new study shows.

The University of Manitoba study released Tuesday looked at antibiotics dispensed at pharmacies between 2011 and 2016 and found, among other issues, that 73 per cent of patients being treated for chest colds were unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics.

To make matters worse, the study found the rate of unnecessary antibiotic prescribing for things like asthma, cough, allergy-related runny nose and the common cold rose significantly in Manitoba over the study, with 67,000 more antibiotic prescriptions written in the last year of the research than the first.

Read more: How antibiotic resistance has an impact on future diseases

“These findings are alarming,” said Dr. Chelsea Ruth, assistant professor of pediatrics and child health at the UM, who co-led the study.

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“They show that Manitoba physicians are not consistently following Canadian recommendations. This results in an increasing number of unnecessary or poorly chosen antibiotics being prescribed.”

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Ruth says higher antibiotic use adds to antibiotic resistance, a growing problem around the world which happens when bacteria are overexposed to a drug and are longer killed by it.

Unnecessary antibiotic use also puts patients at risk of side effects or adverse reactions, with no benefit, Ruth added.

Read more: Prescribing babies fewer antibiotics has led to lower asthma rates: B.C. study

According to the study, which used anonymous data, doctors prescribed 87 per cent of the antibiotics in Manitoba over the five years, with professionals like dentists, nurse practitioners and pharmacists prescribing the remaining 13 per cent.

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As well as unnecessary prescriptions, the study found the wrong type of antibiotic was prescribed for 52 per cent of children under the age of 15, throat infection was treated with the wrong antibiotic 30 per cent of the time, and in patients of all ages, ear infections were treated with the wrong antibiotic 23 per cent of the time.

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The study also found patients with bladder infections were most often prescribed antibiotics from the quinolone class — which aren’t recommended for bladder infections because they also kill bacteria that don’t cause infection.

“Our results indicate that Manitoba needs antibiotic stewardship programs to educate and support prescribers while promoting optimal prescribing practices,” said study co-leader Dr. Sergio Fanella, associate professor of medical microbiology and infectious diseases at the U of M.

Read more: As superbugs grow stronger, Nova Scotia health experts encourage judicious use of antibiotics

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The over-prescription of antibiotics was more common among older doctors and doctors who saw more patients on a daily basis and the study found patients who saw their regular doctor had less antibiotic use and were less likely to be prescribed an inappropriate antibiotic.

“This highlights the importance of doctors having an ongoing relationship with patients and knowing their health history,” said Fanella.

As well as recommending antibiotic stewardship programs be established in Manitoba, the researchers behind the study say patients should have better access to a consistent primary care provider and say data should be used to provide individual prescribers with comparative feedback on their antibiotic prescribing.

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