Antibiotic medications are not risk free

A new study revealed that adverse drug events are common in hospitalized patients who are placed on antibiotics.

In a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Johns Hopkins University researchers concluded that 20% of patients who received at least 24 hours of oral or IV antibiotics in the hospital had at least one antibiotic-associated adverse drug event.

The study looked at two categories of bad events.

The first category includes adverse events that commonly develop within 30 days after antibiotics are started. These include gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines), dermatologic (skin), musculoskeletal, hematologic (blood), hepatobiliary (liver), renal (kidney), cardiac (heart), and neurologic (nerve) problems.

The second category covers a time-span of 90 days after initiation of antibiotics, and includes contracting a Clostridium difficile infection or multidrug-resistant organism infection.

Around 500,000 people a year develop a Clostridium difficile infection. This is a type of bacteria that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Previous studies have shown that this infection occurs most commonly among older patients in hospitals or long-term care facilities, after use of antibiotics. In recent years, though, young people have shown increased rates of infection after antibiotic treatment or exposure to hospital facilities.

Multidrug-resistant organisms infections cannot be treated with various types of common antibiotics. Experts have shown that over-prescription of antibiotics have caused an outbreak of multi-drugs resistant infections.

This is how it happens. Our bodies contain all kinds of different bacteria, many of which play a positive role. When doctors prescribe antibiotics, they not only kill the bad bacteria that are causing infections— they also kill the good bacteria. The antibiotics leave behind the drug-resistant bacteria, though, which are then free to flourish without competition from the good bacteria.

Multi-drug resistant infections are a serious problem all over America that are getting worse by the day. The Johns Hopkins team found that 20% of the patients in their study who were given antibiotics, even though they were not clinically needed, experienced at least one adverse drug event.

The study added another voice to the growing medical community choir that over-prescription of antibiotics needs to end.

The big picture conclusion is that antibiotics are certainly needed when you have an infection, but can cause problems when you are not suffering from a condition that requires them. When your doctor prescribes or orders antibiotics, you may consider having a conversation about his or her thought process on why an antibiotic is necessary.

We are here to help

If you developed a serious injury after being prescribed antibiotics in a hospital setting, then know that the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm are here to help. Call our Houston, Texas office at 281-580-8800 for a free consultation about your potential case.


Robert Painter is a Houston medical malpractice lawyer who practices law at Painter Law Firm. He has handled a variety of cases involving drug and medication errors, infections, and hospital malpractice, among numerous other medical negligence claims. Robert Painter devotes his practice to representing people who have been harmed by the mistakes of doctors, nurses, pharmacies, and hospitals.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.