Antibiotics overprescribed at the start of COVID-19 pandemic

Physicians turned to broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat patients flooding emergency departments in March and April exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Such shot-in-the-dark medications are often used against bacterial infections that cannot be immediately identified.

According to a June 4 New York Times article, Teena Chopra, MD, the director of epidemiology and antibiotic stewardship at Detroit Medical Center, said roughly more than 80% of arriving patients were given antimicrobial drugs. Chopra and other physicians across the country who liberally dispensed antibiotics in the early weeks of the pandemic said they soon realized their mistake. “Many physicians were inappropriately giving antibiotics because, honestly, they had limited choices,” said Chopra in the New York Times article.

Now that the initial flood of patients in hard-hit cities has subsided, physicians across the United States are seeking to draw lessons from their overuse of antibiotics, a practice that can spur resistance to the lifesaving drugs. Widespread fears that COVID-19 patients were especially susceptible to drug-resistant infections appear to have been misguided.