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Pharmacy Practice



Approximately 30% of all outpatient antimicrobials are inappropriately prescribed. Currently, antimicrobial prescribing patterns in emergency departments (ED) are not well described. Determining inappropriate antimicrobial prescribing patterns and opportunities for interventions by antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASP) are needed.


A retrospective chart review was performed among a random sample of non-admitted, adult patients who received an antimicrobial prescription in the ED from January 1 to December 31, 2015. Appropriateness was measured using the Medication Appropriateness Index, and was based on provider adherence to local guidelines. Additional information collected included patient characteristics, initial diagnoses, and other chronic medication use.


Of 1579 ED antibiotic prescriptions in 2015, we reviewed a total of 159 (10.1%) prescription records. The most frequently prescribed antimicrobial classes included penicillins (22.6%), macrolides (20.8%), cephalosporins (17.6%), and fluoroquinolones (17.0%). The most common indications for antibiotics were bronchitis or upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) (35.1%), followed by skin and soft tissue infection (SSTI) (25.0%), both of which were the most common reason for unnecessary prescribing (28.9% of bronchitis/URTIs, 25.6% of SSTIs). Of the antimicrobial prescriptions reviewed, 39% met criteria for inappropriateness. Among 78 prescriptions with a consensus on appropriate indications, 13.8% had inappropriate dosing, duration, or expense.


Consistent with national outpatient prescribing, inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in the ED occurred in 39% of cases with the highest rates observed among patients with bronchitis, URTI, and SSTI. Antimicrobial stewardship programs may benefit by focusing on initiatives for these conditions among ED patients. Moreover, creation of local guideline pocketbooks for these and other conditions may serve to improve prescribing practices and meet the Core Elements of Outpatient Stewardship recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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