From the Journals

Antibiotic use in dermatology declining, with one exception

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Strategies to further reduce antibiotic use in dermatology

Reducing antibiotic prescribing in dermatology – as in so many other areas of medical practice – is a challenge, but there are a number of strategies that can help.

The first is to take a wait-and-see approach, which has been shown to be effective for childhood otitis media. Communication training for physicians can also help them to manage patient requests for antibiotics by working out the patient’s level of understanding of their condition and treatment options, and their expectations, and getting them to agree to keep antibiotics as a contingency plan. There are clinical decision support tools available to help physicians identify high-risk surgical patients who may require postoperative antibiotics.

It will help to have alternative treatment options for conditions such as acne and rosacea, such as better topical therapies, and an increase in clinical trials for these therapies will hopefully provide more options for patients.

Joslyn S. Kirby, MD, and Jordan S. Lim, MB, are in the department of dermatology, Penn State University, Hershey. These comments are taken from an accompanying editorial (JAMA Dermatology. 2019 Jan 16. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.4877). They had no disclosures.



Dermatologists are prescribing fewer antibiotics for acne and rosacea, but prescribing after dermatologic surgery has increased in the past decade.

In a study published online Jan. 16 in JAMA Dermatology, researchers report the results of a cross-sectional analysis of antibiotic prescribing by 11,986 dermatologists between 2008 and 2016, using commercial claims data.

The analysis showed that, over this period of time, the overall rate of antibiotic prescribing by dermatologists decreased by 36.6%, from 3.36 courses per 100 dermatologist visits to 2.13 courses. In particular, antibiotic prescribing for acne decreased by 28.1%, from 11.76 courses per 100 visits to 8.45 courses, and for rosacea it decreased by 18.1%, from 10.89 courses per 100 visits to 8.92 courses.

John S. Barbieri, MD, of the department of dermatology, University of Pennsylvania, and his coauthors described the overall decline in antibiotic prescribing as “encouraging,” considering that in 2013 dermatologists were identified as the “most frequent prescribers of oral antibiotics per clinician.” The decline resulted in an estimated 480,000 fewer antibiotic courses a year, they noted.

“Much of the decrease in extended courses of antibiotic therapy is associated with visits for acne and rosacea,” they wrote. “Although recent guidelines suggest limiting the duration of therapy in this patient population, course duration has remained stable over time, suggesting that this decrease may be due to fewer patients being treated with antibiotics rather than patients being treated for a shorter duration.”

However, the rate of oral antibiotic prescriptions associated with surgical visits increased by 69.6%, from 3.92 courses per 100 visits to 6.65. This increase was concerning, given the risk of surgical-site infections was low, the authors pointed out. “In addition, a 2008 advisory statement on antibiotic prophylaxis recommends single-dose perioperative antibiotics for patients at increased risk of surgical-site infection,” they added.

The study also noted a 35.3% increase in antibiotic prescribing for cysts and a 3.2% increase for hidradenitis suppurativa.

Over the entire study period, nearly 1 million courses of oral antibiotics were prescribed. Doxycycline hyclate accounted for around one quarter of prescriptions, as did minocycline, while 19.9% of prescriptions were for cephalexin.

“Given the low rate of infectious complications, even for Mohs surgery, and the lack of evidence to support the use of prolonged rather than single-dose perioperative regimens, the postoperative courses of antibiotics identified in this study may increase risks to patients without substantial benefits,” they added.

The study was partly supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases. No conflicts of interest were declared.

SOURCE: Barbieri J et al. JAMA Dermatology. 2019 Jan 16. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.4944.

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