Study on Damaging Effects of Antibiotic Overuse in Nursing Homes

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An estimated 1.4 million Americans reside in more than 15,000 nursing homes today. Many of these seniors require post-acute treatment for suspected urinary tract infections and other ailments common to this aging demographic. But researchers warn that nursing home residents are frequently overprescribed antibiotics, and much of this use is inappropriate, according to Christopher Crnich, MD, who penned an editorial on the topic in JAMA Internal Medicine.

According to a study conducted by Crnich and Lona Mody, MD, MS, the most common infection leading to inappropriate antibiotic treatment in these homes is urinary tract infection, which accounts for up to 56% of antibiotics prescribed. A separate study found that one in eight nursing home residents in Ontario experienced adverse events stemming from antibiotics.

Researcher Nick Daneman, MD, MSc, and his colleagues looked at adverse events over a 2-year period and found that nursing homes with a high rate of antibiotic use had a 24 percent increased risk of resident health complications related to antibiotics.  Based on Daneman’s findings, Mody and Crnich propose that nearly 20,000 nursing home residents here in the U.S. suffer an antibiotic-related injury or adverse event each year.

Antibiotic overuse in nursing homes

Penicillin and second-generation fluoroquinolones were the most frequently prescribed antibiotics in nursing homes evaluated by Daneman’s team. The researchers found that even residents who were not given antibiotics were still more likely to experience an adverse event in a home that routinely doled out prescriptions. While Crnich and Mody questioned Daneman’s analytical approach to his study, which did not factor in seasonal variation or use exposure metrics that might influence results, they agree that overuse and misuse of these drugs is a worrying issue for senior residents in our nation’s nursing homes.

“An estimated 25% to 75% of antibiotic prescriptions do not meet clinical guidelines for appropriate prescribing,” noted Crnich and Mody in their commentary on the effects of excessive antibiotic use in nursing homes, published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Medication misuse and errors are one of many problems plaguing nursing homes that are charged with the care of our grandparents, parents and dearest loved ones. While staff may have no real intentions of harming their residents, overprescribing medications or giving antipsychotics “off-label” to calm agitated patients with dementia can have catastrophic results.  In fact, the FDA warned in 2005 that atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal were linked to an increased risk of death in elders with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite this glaring safety concern, some facilities have doled out the medication, only to have some residents suffer stroke and sudden death. 

South Carolina elder abuse lawyer Michael Jeffcoat has handled personal injury claims arising from negligent medical care, physical and emotional abuse as well as financial exploitation, helping victims and their families balance the scales of justice.

Advice for filing an SC nursing home neglect lawsuit

If your loved one is in a nursing home or assisted living facility and you find symptoms of physical or emotional abuse, The Jeffcoat Firm is here to answer your questions regarding legal recourse. To set up a free and confidential consultation about filing a nursing home neglect lawsuit in South Carolina, we invite you to call our offices at (803) 200-2000

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