Pink Eye Antibiotics: Overprescribed?
In the United States alone, pink eye affects more than 6 million people per year. There are three different causes, or “kinds” of pink eye. There is viral, bacterial, and allergy-induced pink eye. A recent study, published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, has concluded that the use of pink eye antibiotics as a remedy, in most cases, is ineffective. When it comes to cases of viral and allergy induced pink eye (the most common forms), there is no medical use for antibiotics. Furthermore, bacterial cases which could be cured by antibiotic use are generally too mild of an infection to warrant using antibiotics for treatment.
This study was the first of its kind when it comes to assessing the use of antibiotics as a treatment for pink eye. After gathering data over 14 years and examining approximately 300,000 cases of pink eye, it was concluded that approximately 60% of patients are prescribed antibiotic pink eye drops when diagnosed. In addition, 20% of those receive an antibiotic-steroid combination that could potentially worsen or prolong the condition. It has been determined that nation-wide, there is consistent antibiotic misuse for treating any kind of viral or mild bacterial infection. One contributing factor may be that most of these diagnoses are coming from primary care physicians, not eye care specialists.
The nationwide practice of incorrectly prescribing antibiotics as pink eye medicine has negative consequences. For one, these prescriptions increase the cost to not only the consumer but to the healthcare companies as well. Moreover, the over-prescription of antibiotics can potentially lead to the body building up a resistance to the antibiotics, making that treatment ineffective going forward with other medical conditions.
When it comes to your health, the well-being of the patient should always be first. However, as this study has shown, that is not always the case. Lead Author of the study, Nakul S. Shekhawat, M.D., M.P.H., describes the current situation best by saying: “Current treatment decisions for pink eye are not based on evidence, but are often driven more by the type of healthcare practitioner making the diagnosis and the patient’s socioeconomic status than by medical reasons. The potential negative consequences are difficult to justify as we move toward focusing on value in health care.”
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