According to a recent study by doctoral student research Michael J Ray & co-authors, 18% of antibiotic prescriptions were written without in indication in 2015. Here are the key findings and how life sciences advertising agencies can help.

Key Findings

The factors that increased the likelihood of an antibiotic prescription without an indication were:

  • Being an adult male
  • Spending a prolonged amount of time with a provider
  • Seeing a non-primary care specialist

When combined, these factors seem to suggest that these are patients who aren’t taking “no” for an answer. Everybody knows that men are their own #1 doctor, and it just seems that these are patients who won’t leave the office without a script.

The problem seems to be that specialists need updated treatment guidelines that require stricter requirements for behavioral therapy. Antibiotic resistance is an important issue. If these patients don’t need antibiotics, they shouldn’t be getting them. For example,

The Best Recourse

The study mentions that inappropriate prescribing drops when clinicians are required to submit a written justification when ordering antibiotics. Updating treatment guidelines with this requirement for ambulatory care specialists makes sense as a first step.

Since sulfonamides were a commonly-prescribed antibiotic in the study, UTI prescribing practices in older men are the most salient starting point.

For example, an older patient who has the frequent and overwhelming urge to urinate might have complicated UTI or over-active bladder symptom (OAB). Unless there is an explicit reason, no male should receive antibiotics for frequent urination before they receive a culture unless they are significantly immunocompromised.

Urologists should be required to submit a written confirmation of a positive culture unless a patient’s well-being is at risk.

How Life Sciences Advertisers Can Help

As life sciences advertisers, we should be helping specialists avoid making unnecessary prescriptions. If the patients of specialists aren’t taking “no” for an answer from their prescriber, then maybe we can help.

One way we can caution patients is to provide information about antibiotic-resistant bacteria on patient materials. Slim jims for antibiotic products should feature information on antibiotic resistance.

We should also help our clients sell their products with a “less is more approach”. Sometimes, the product isn’t right.  By understanding what a product isn’t, our audiences will realize what it is.

Perhaps if we let these older patients know that their insistence on receiving an unnecessary prescription could hurt their children, then they will have second thoughts about demanding an unnecessary prescription. They will understand that drugs should only be taken when they’re absolutely necessary.

Perhaps this will help turn around the adherence issue as well. Life sciences advertisers, their clients, HCPs, and patients all need to work together to prevent antibiotics being taken for granted.