Top hospital admits own overuse of antibiotics

Johns Hopkins is one of the nation’s premier hospitals, but where excessive use of antibiotics is concerned, even this prestigious institution can’t seem to get its act together.

A recent study done by the hospital’s own researchers on its own patients has found that antibiotic overuse is still the norm. And it’s caused patients to come down with serious, possibly life-threatening side effects for no good reason at all.

All of this makes it more important than ever that you know how to keep yourself or a loved one safe from this epidemic of antibiotic abuse.

Because this is a risk that we all face, even with top docs in top hospitals.

An unnecessary risk

“Too often, clinicians prescribe antibiotics even if they have a low suspicion for a bacterial infection.”

That comment by Dr. Pranita Tamma, an assistant professor of pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, hits the nail on the head.

But while you’d think that there would be an easy fix for this — as Dr. Tamma adds, every time a doctor wants to prescribe one, they need to “pause” and ask themselves if the patient really needs it — that only sounds good on paper!

Because it turns out that in real life, things aren’t much better at her own institution, one that’s been ranked as the best of the best by U.S. News and World Report, then they might be at your corner care clinic.

After tracking the medical records of close to 1,500 adults admitted to the hospital between September 2013 and the following June, Johns Hopkins researchers found that they don’t always practice what they preach.

They reported that nearly a fifth of the antibiotics administered to the group they studied were unnecessary. That was based on two infectious disease experts being unable to find any evidence of bacterial infection that would have required the use of such drugs.

That research, published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, also found that 20 percent of the patients examined suffered adverse reactions to those meds — whether they needed them or not.

The most common reactions to the drugs were digestive problems, followed by kidney issues and blood abnormalities. The researchers also estimated that each additional 10 days of antibiotics upped a patient’s risk of suffering such side effects by 3 percent.

But perhaps worst of all, 4 percent of the patients developed the highly dangerous diarrhea known as C. diff. and another 6 percent suffered what were considered to be potential multidrug-resistant infections.

Is that really the best that one of the country’s top hospitals can do?

But even that may not reflect the full extent of antibiotic misuse that goes on in hospitals around the country, since it turns out that Johns Hopkins has what is described as a “robust Antibiotic Stewardship Program” that “leads the way” in making sure these drugs are not overprescribed!

In addition, it’s possible that the number of antibiotic side effects may have been underestimated, due to the fact that not all of the hospital’s clinics maintain complete electronic patient records.

Fortunately, none of the patients followed in the study died, but adverse reactions to antibiotics were blamed for nearly a quarter of them having to stay longer in the hospital. In addition, 3 percent had to be readmitted, 9 percent required additional ER or clinic visits, and 61 percent had to undergo additional diagnostic tests.

All of this should be a reminder that “antibiotics have the potential to cause real harm to patients,” said Dr. Tamma, who suggests that patients ask their doctors about the side effects of antibiotics and how to recognize them.

But I’ll take that one step farther. Whenever you’re prescribed an antibiotic, don’t wait for your doctor to ask himself if you really need it. Ask him why he thinks you need it and if it really is necessary.

That simple act alone might save you from considerable pain and suffering.

It could even save your life.

“Study finds 1 in 5 patients suffer antibiotic side effects” HUB, June 16, 2017,