At least 30% of Medicare outpatients treated with antibiotics for COVID-19 –


Antibiotics, primarily azithromycin, were routinely prescribed to Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic, CDC researchers found.

Investigators analyzed Medicare records from April 2020 to April 2021 to identify beneficiaries with a COVID-19 outpatient visit (including telehealth visits) and associated antibiotic prescriptions. At least 30% of outpatient visits during this period were related to an antibiotic prescription and more than half of them were for azithromycin, reported Sharon V. Tsay, MD, and colleagues in the Division of the quality and promotion of the agency’s health care.

Not only have randomized clinical trials shown no benefit of azithromycin in treating COVID-19, treating the disease with these drugs has been linked to antimicrobial resistance, the authors wrote in a search letter published last week in JAMA.

The highest rates of antibiotic prescribing were in the emergency department, followed by telehealth visits. Urgent care centers, on the other hand, were the most likely to prescribe azithromycin. Prescription rates were also higher for non-Hispanic white recipients than for those from other racial and ethnic groups, they reported.

“These observations reinforce the importance of improving appropriate antibiotic prescribing in outpatient settings and avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use for viral infections such as COVID-19 in the elderly,” the authors concluded. .

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