A new study suggests that most people with acute conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, are getting the wrong treatment.
About 60 percent of patients nationwide are prescribed antibiotic eye drops, even though antibiotics are rarely necessary to treat this common eye infection. Of the patients filling antibiotic prescriptions, 20 percent filled prescriptions for antibiotic-steroid eye drops that can prolong or worsen the infection.
The study by the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center is consistent with a nationwide trend of antibiotic misuse for common viral and mild bacterial conditions. It’s a trend that increases costs to patients and the health care system and may promote antibiotic resistance.
“This study opens the lid on overprescribing of antibiotics for a common eye infection,” says lead study author Nakul Shekhawat, M.D., M.P.H., resident physician at Kellogg.
Using data from a large managed care network in the United States, researchers identified the number of patients who filled antibiotic eye drop prescriptions for acute conjunctivitis. They then evaluated the characteristics of patients who filled prescriptions compared to those who did not.
Among 340,372 people diagnosed with acute conjunctivitis over a 14-year period, 58 percent filled a prescription for antibiotic eye drops.