Dermatologists prescribe the most antibiotics, but which uses are driving the trend?

The use of antibiotics to treat inflammatory skin conditions like acne and rosacea is decreasing over time, but there has been an increase in prescriptions associated with dermatologic surgical procedures. Those are the findings of a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, who say the results show some encouraging signs in the effort for greater antibiotic stewardship in dermatology, while also pointing to a clear need for further research. The study is published in JAMA Dermatology.

dermatologist with young patient

Dermatologists prescribe more antibiotics per provider than any other specialty—more than 7.1 million prescriptions per year. That number is further complicated by the fact that many patients, such as those taking antibiotics for acne, can stay on the drugs for extended periods of time, as opposed to other antibiotic uses that may only involve a seven- or 10-day course. The more antibiotics are used, the more the issue they are treating will build resistance, meaning the drugs become less and less effective over time until they eventually stop working altogether. That reality has led to a renewed focus on stewardship across all fields of medicine, but dermatology has a particular onus given the field’s sheer volume of prescriptions.

“To track our field’s efforts, we wanted to know two things: In what settings do dermatologists prescribe antibiotics most frequently, and how is this use changing over time?” says John Barbieri, dermatology research fellow and the study’s lead author. David J. Margolis, a professor of dermatology, is the study’s senior author.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.