Antibiotic Prescribing Increased in VA Clinics During COVID-19 Spread

October 23, 2020
Kevin Kunzmann
Kevin Kunzmann

New data show the pandemic, and a lack of efficacious therapies, did harm to 4 years' worth of stewardship.

New data from the VA showed there’s been a broad increase in antibiotic prescribing this year, coinciding with the initial surge of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) cases in VA facilities across the US.

The new data, presented at IDWeek 2020, showed the pandemic’s overwhelming costs were able to abruptly reverse the course of four-plus years in steadied antibiotic prescribing.

Investigators concluded in their research that there may be myriad reasons for the increase of antibiotic use during the pandemic: be it increased patient vulnerability and provider treatment uncertainties, inappropriately decreased provider thresholds for initiating or continuing therapy, or stresses on the structure and staffing of antimicrobial stewardship programs.

Regardless of the reason, there is an inherent sense of frustration that a bit of the slowly developed antimicrobial stewardship foundation has become harmed by this, a still little understood viral infection which has consumed the attention of the entire infectious disease field.

In an interview with Contagion during IDWeek, study author Matthew Goetz, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, discussed the findings, the possible causes of return to antibiotic over-prescribing during COVID-19, resolutions being made to the spike, and what future research may entail.

“Frankly, physicians had no validated treatments and were really anxious to do something that might help patients, and antibiotics were those tools,” Goetz said.

Watch the full interview with Goetz in the video above.

The study, “Antimicrobial Use in the Time of COVID-19 – Data from 84 VA Facilities,” was presented at IDWeek 2020.