Too many hospice patients are receiving antibiotics, and for too long, researchers say

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Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version.

The prevalence and frequency of antibiotic use among hospice patients is high despite little evidence of effectiveness, researchers say.

Investigators from the Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University discovered that 21% of hospital patients who transition to hospice care receive prescription for antibiotics upon discharge — although nearly 30% did not have any documented infection during their hospital stay. About 27% continue to use antibiotics even in their last week of life, a report in Infection Control Today noted.

A consequence that “often isn't adequately considered” is the unwanted side effects that antibiotics can cause, lead researcher Jon P. Furuno, Ph.D., told Infection Control Today. Antibiotics “may not work anyway” for terminally-ill people, he added.

The study was based on information from nearly 63,000 inpatients discharged to hospice care from the Oregon Health & Science University Hospital, from January 2010 to December 2012. Most of the study subjects were 65 years or older, male and stayed at the hospital for 7 days or less.

Study results appeared in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy on July 7.

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