Antibiotic Side Effects Responsible for 140,000+ ER Visits Every Year

Overuse of antibiotics like <"">Cipro and amoxicillan result in serious reactions that send  more than 140,000 people to emergency rooms every year.   Those starting statistics provide yet another reason for doctors to limit their use of the drugs.

The findings are part of a new study on antibiotic reactions in the U.S. – the first of its kind -conducted by the Centers or Disease Control (CDC).  The researchers used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project, a sample of 63 U.S. hospitals, between 2004 and 2006.  According to their survey, the hospitals recorded more than 6,600 emergency visits that were due to an adverse reaction to an antibiotics.  They were able to extrapolate this to the whole country and estimated that 142,000 such emergency visits are made every year.

Systemic antibiotics (pills or injections as opposed to creams) were implicated in 19.3 percent of all emergency department visits for drug-related adverse events,” they wrote in the September 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Penicillin and related antibiotics such as amoxicillin – among the most trusted and widely prescribed drugs – accounted for half the emergency visits. Other classes of antibiotics such as cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones – the class that includes Cipro – and newer antibiotics accounted for the rest.

The study found that 78 percent of the adverse events in the study were allergic reactions, ranging from rash to a serious reaction known as anaphylaxis, and the remaining 22 percent were caused by errors and overdoses.

The researchers said that their findings prove that overuse of antibiotics is a serious public health problem.  “This number is an important reminder for physicians and patients that antibiotics can have serious side effects and should only be taken when necessary,” said the CDC’s Dr. Daniel Budnitz, who led the study.

Some studies have found that half of the estimated 100 million antibiotic prescriptions written for respiratory tract infections in the U.S. are unnecessary. The majority of these functions are caused by viruses, and antibiotics are useless against them.

Serious reactions to antibiotics are nothing new.  Last month, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) asked the manufacturers of Cipro and other fluorquinolones to add a black box warning to the drugs’ labels about their association with tendon damage.   The FDA said the risk of tendon damage was  greatest for those over age 60, those on concomitant steroid therapy, and  kidney, heart, and lung transplant recipients. The ruptures generally related to the use of fluoroquinolones involve the Achilles tendon as well as ruptures of the shoulder, hand, biceps, and thumbs

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