In 1991, most physicians in Minnesota and Wisconsin managed patients concerns about anthrax without dispensing prophylactic antimicrobial agents.
Media reports suggested increased public demand for anthrax prophylaxis after the intentional anthrax cases in 2001, but the magnitude of anthrax-related prescribing in unaffected regions was not assessed. We surveyed a random sample of 400 primary care clinicians in Minnesota and Wisconsin to assess requests for and provision of anthrax-related antimicrobial agents. The survey was returned by 239 (60%) of clinicians, including 210 in outpatient practice. Fifty-eight (28%) of those in outpatient practice received requests for anthrax-related antimicrobial agents, and 9 (4%) dispensed them. Outpatient fluoroquinolone use in both states was also analyzed with regression models to compare predicted and actual use in October and November 2001. Fluoroquinolone use as a proportion of total antimicrobial use was not elevated, and anthrax concerns accounted for an estimated 0.3% of all fluoroquinolone prescriptions. Most physicians in Minnesota and Wisconsin managed anthrax-related requests without dispensing antimicrobial agents.
research, anthrax, fluoroquinolone, prophylaxis; drug resistance; bioterrorism
After public notification of confirmed cases of bioterrorism-related anthrax, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Operations Center responded to 11,063 bioterrorism-related telephone calls from October 8 to November 11, 2001. Most calls were inquiries from the public about anthrax vaccines (58.4%), requests for general information on bioterrorism prevention (14.8%), and use of personal protective equipment (12.0%); 882 telephone calls (8.0%) were referred to the state liaison team for follow-up investigation. Of these, 226 (25.6%) included reports of either illness clinically confirmed to be compatible with anthrax or direct exposure to an environment known to be contaminated with Bacillus anthracis. The remaining 656 (74.4%) included no confirmed illness but reported exposures to “suspicious” packages or substances or the receipt of mail through a contaminated facility. Emergency response staff must handle high call volumes following suspected or actual bioterrorist attacks. Standardized health communication protocols that address contact with unknown substances, handling of suspicious mail, and clinical evaluation of suspected cases would allow more efficient follow-up investigations of clinically compatible cases in high-risk groups.
anthrax; bioterrorism; triage; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The recent public health risks arising from bioterrorist threats and outbreaks of infectious diseases like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) highlight the challenges of effectively communicating accurate health information to an alarmed public.
To evaluate use of the Internet in accessing information related to the anthrax scare in the United States in late 2001, and to strategize about the most effective use of this technology as a communication vehicle during times of public health crises.
A paper-based survey to assess how individuals obtained health information relating to bioterrorism and anthrax during late 2001.We surveyed 500 randomly selected patients from two ambulatory primary care clinics affiliated with the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
The response rate was 42%. While traditional media provided the primary source of information on anthrax and bioterrorism, 21% (95% CI, 15% - 27%) of respondents reported searching the Internet for this information during late 2001. Respondents reported trusting information from physicians the most, and information from health websites slightly more than information from any traditional media source. Over half of those searching the Internet reported changing their behavior as a result of information found online.
Many people already look to the Internet for information during a public health crisis, and information found online can positively influence behavioral responses to such crises. However, the potential of the Internet to convey accurate health information and advice has not yet been realized. In order to enhance the effectiveness of public-health communication, physician practices could use this technology to pro-actively e-mail their patients validated information. Still, unless Internet access becomes more broadly available, its benefits will not accrue to disadvantaged populations.
bioterrorism; public health; communication; electronic mail; inequality; behavior
From September through December 2001, 22 Americans were diagnosed with anthrax, prompting widespread national media attention and public concern over bioterrorism. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the threat of anthrax bioterrorism on patient presentation to a West Coast emergency department (ED).
This survey was conducted at an urban county ED in Oakland, CA between December 15, 2001 and February 15, 2002. During random 8-hour blocks, all adult patients presenting for flu or upper respiratory infection (URI) symptoms were surveyed using a structured survey instrument that included standard visual numerical and Likert scales.
Eighty-nine patients were interviewed. Eleven patients (12%) reported potential exposure risk factors. Eighty percent of patients watched television, read the newspaper, or listened to the radio daily, and 83% of patients had heard about anthrax bioterrorism. Fifty-five percent received a chest x-ray, 10% received either throat or blood cultures, and 28% received antibiotics. Twenty-one percent of patients surveyed were admitted to the hospital. Most patients were minimally concerned that they may have contracted anthrax (mean=3.3±3.3 where 0=no concern and 10=extremely concerned). Patient concern about anthrax had little influence on their decision to visit the ED (mean=2.8±3.0 where 0=no influence and 10=greatly influenced). Had they experienced their same flu or URI symptoms one year prior to the anthrax outbreak, 91% of patients stated they would have sought medical attention.
After considerable exposure to media reports about anthrax, most patients in this urban West Coast ED population were not concerned about anthrax infection. Fear of anthrax had little effect on decisions to come to the ED, and most would have sought medical help prior to the anthrax outbreak.
After reports of the intentional release of Bacillus anthracis in the United States, epidemiologists, laboratorians, and clinicians around the world were called upon to respond to widespread political and public concerns. To respond to inquiries from other countries regarding anthrax and bioterrorism, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established an international team in its Emergency Operations Center. From October 12, 2001, to January 2, 2002, this team received 130 requests from 70 countries and 2 territories. Requests originated from ministries of health, international organizations, and physicians and included subjects ranging from laboratory procedures and clinical evaluations to assessments of environmental and occupational health risks. The information and technical support provided by the international team helped allay fears, prevent unnecessary antibiotic treatment, and enhance laboratory-based surveillance for bioterrorism events worldwide.
anthrax; bioterrorism; international; Bacillus anthracis
The October 2001 anthrax attacks heralded a new era of bioterrorism threat in the U.S. At the time, little systematic data on mental health effects were available to guide authorities' response. For this study, which was conducted 7 months after the anthrax attacks, structured diagnostic interviews were conducted with 137 Capitol Hill staff workers, including 56 who had been directly exposed to areas independently determined to have been contaminated. Postdisaster psychopathology was associated with exposure; of those with positive nasal swab tests, PTSD was diagnosed in 27% and any post-anthrax psychiatric disorder in 55%. Fewer than half of those who were prescribed antibiotics completed the entire course, and only one-fourth had flawless antibiotic adherence. Thirty percent of those not exposed believed they had been exposed; 18% of all study participants had symptoms they suspected were symptoms of anthrax infection, and most of them sought medical care. Extrapolation of raw numbers to large future disasters from proportions with incorrect belief in exposure in this limited study indicates a potential for important public health consequences, to the degree that people alter their healthcare behavior based on incorrect exposure beliefs. Incorrect belief in exposure was associated with being very upset, losing trust in health authorities, having concerns about mortality, taking antibiotics, and being male. Those who incorrectly believe they were exposed may warrant concern and potential interventions as well as those exposed. Treatment adherence and maintenance of trust for public health authorities may be areas of special concern, warranting further study to inform authorities in future disasters involving biological, chemical, and radiological agents.
Infectious disease emergency preparedness planners should consider the special medical issues of pregnant women.
Emerging infectious disease outbreaks and bioterrorism attacks warrant urgent public health and medical responses. Response plans for these events may include use of medications and vaccines for which the effects on pregnant women and fetuses are unknown. Healthcare providers must be able to discuss the benefits and risks of these interventions with their pregnant patients. Recent experiences with outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome, monkeypox, and anthrax, as well as response planning for bioterrorism and pandemic influenza, illustrate the challenges of making recommendations about treatment and prophylaxis for pregnant women. Understanding the physiology of pregnancy, the factors that influence the teratogenic potential of medications and vaccines, and the infection control measures that may stop an outbreak will aid planners in making recommendations for care of pregnant women during large-scale infectious disease emergencies.
Pregnancy; bioterrorism; communicable diseases; vaccines; synopsis
Bacillus anthracis is a pathogen that causes life-threatening disease--anthrax. B. anthracis spores are highly resistant to extreme temperatures and harsh chemicals. Inactivation of B. anthracis spores is important to ensure the environmental safety and public health. The 2001 bioterrorism attack involving anthrax spores has brought acute public attention and triggered extensive research on inactivation of B. anthracis spores. Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) as a class of emerging nanomaterial have been reported as a strong antimicrobial agent. In addition, continuous near infrared (NIR) radiation on SWCNTs induces excessive local heating which can enhance SWCNTs’ antimicrobial effect. In this study, we investigated the effects of SWCNTs coupled with NIR treatment on Bacillus anthracis spores.
Results and discussion
The results showed that the treatment of 10 μg/mL SWCNTs coupled with 20 min NIR significantly improved the antimicrobial effect by doubling the percentage of viable spore number reduction compared with SWCNTs alone treatment (88% vs. 42%). At the same time, SWCNTs-NIR treatment activated the germination of surviving spores and their dipicolinic acid (DPA) release during germination. The results suggested the dual effect of SWCNTs-NIR treatment on B. anthracis spores: enhanced the sporicidal effect and stimulated the germination of surviving spores. Molecular level examination showed that SWCNTs-NIR increased the expression levels (>2-fold) in 3 out of 6 germination related genes tested in this study, which was correlated to the activated germination and DPA release. SWCNTs-NIR treatment either induced or inhibited the expression of 3 regulatory genes detected in this study. When the NIR treatment time was 5 or 25 min, there were 3 out of 7 virulence related genes that showed significant decrease on expression levels (>2 fold decrease).
The results of this study demonstrated the dual effect of SWCNTs-NIR treatment on B. anthracis spores, which enhanced the sporicidal effect and stimulated the germination of surviving spores. SWCNTs-NIR treatment also altered the expression of germination, regulatory, and virulence-related genes in B. anthracis.
Single walled carbon nanotubes; Bacillus anthracis spores; Near infrared radiation; Germination; Dipicolinic acid; Gene expression
After inhalational anthrax was diagnosed in a Connecticut woman on November 20, 2001, postexposure prophylaxis was recommended for postal workers at the regional mail facility serving the patient’s area. Although environmental testing at the facility yielded negative results, subsequent testing confirmed the presence of Bacillus anthracis. We distributed questionnaires to 100 randomly selected postal workers within 20 days of initial prophylaxis. Ninety-four workers obtained antibiotics, 68 of whom started postexposure prophylaxis and 21 discontinued. Postal workers who stopped or never started taking prophylaxis cited as reasons disbelief regarding anthrax exposure, problems with adverse events, and initial reports of negative cultures. Postal workers with adverse events reported predominant symptoms of gastrointestinal distress and headache. The influence of these concerns on adherence suggests that communication about risks of acquiring anthrax, education about adverse events, and careful management of adverse events are essential elements in increasing adherence.
Anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; prophylaxis; adverse effects; ciprofloxacin; doxycycline; patient noncompliance; Connecticut
Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, is an agent of bioterrorism. The most effective antimicrobial therapy for B. anthracis infections is unknown. An in vitro pharmacodynamic model of B. anthracis was used to compare the efficacies of simulated clinically prescribed regimens of moxifloxacin, linezolid, and meropenem with the “gold standards,” doxycycline and ciprofloxacin. Treatment outcomes for isogenic spore-forming and non-spore-forming strains of B. anthracis were compared. Against spore-forming B. anthracis, ciprofloxacin, moxifloxacin, linezolid, and meropenem reduced the B. anthracis population by 4 log10 CFU/ml over 10 days. Doxycycline reduced the population of this B. anthracis strain by 5 log10 CFU/ml (analysis of variance [ANOVA] P = 0.01 versus other drugs). Against an isogenic non-spore-forming strain, meropenem killed the vegetative B. anthracis the fastest, followed by moxifloxacin and ciprofloxacin and then doxycycline. Linezolid offered the lowest bacterial kill rate. Heat shock studies using the spore-producing B. anthracis strain showed that with moxifloxacin, ciprofloxacin, and meropenem therapies the total population was mostly spores, while the population was primarily vegetative bacteria with linezolid and doxycycline therapies. Spores have a profound impact on the rate and extent of killing of B. anthracis. Against spore-forming B. anthracis, the five antibiotics killed the total (spore and vegetative) bacterial population at similar rates (within 1 log10 CFU/ml of each other). However, bactericidal antibiotics killed vegetative B. anthracis faster than bacteriostatic drugs. Since only vegetative-phase B. anthracis produces the toxins that may kill the infected host, the rate and mechanism of killing of an antibiotic may determine its overall in vivo efficacy. Further studies are needed to examine this important observation.
We collected data during postexposure antimicrobial prophylaxis campaigns and from a prophylaxis program evaluation 60 days after start of antimicrobial prophylaxis involving persons from six U.S. sites where Bacillus anthracis exposures occurred. Adverse events associated with antimicrobial prophylaxis to prevent anthrax were commonly reported, but hospitalizations and serious adverse events as defined by Food and Drug Administration criteria were rare. Overall adherence during 60 days of antimicrobial prophylaxis was poor (44%), ranging from 21% of persons exposed in the Morgan postal facility in New York City to 64% of persons exposed at the Brentwood postal facility in Washington, D.C. Adherence was highest among participants in an investigational new drug protocol to receive additional antibiotics with or without anthrax vaccine—a likely surrogate for anthrax risk perception. Adherence of <60 days was not consistently associated with adverse events.
Anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; antimicrobial prophylaxis; adverse events; adherence
During the 2001 anthrax attacks, public health agencies faced operational and communication decisions about the use of antibiotic prophylaxis and the anthrax vaccine with affected groups, including postal workers. This communication occurred within an evolving situation with incomplete and uncertain data. Guidelines for prophylactic antibiotics changed several times, contributing to confusion and mistrust. At the end of 60 days of taking antibiotics, people were offered an additional 40 days' supply of antibiotics, with or without the anthrax vaccine, the former constituting an investigational new drug protocol. Using data from interviews and focus groups with 65 postal workers in 3 sites and structured interviews with 16 public health professionals, this article examines the challenges for public health professionals who were responsible for communication with postal workers about the vaccine. Multiple factors affected the response, including a lack of trust, risk perception, disagreement about the recommendation, and the controversy over the military's use of the vaccine. Some postal workers reacted with suspicion to the vaccine offer, believing that they were the subjects of research, and some African American workers specifically drew an analogy to the Tuskegee syphilis study. The consent forms required for the protocol heightened mistrust. Postal workers also had complex and ambivalent responses to additional research on their health. The anthrax attacks present us with an opportunity to understand the challenges of communication in the context of uncertain science and suggest key strategies that may improve communications about vaccines and other drugs authorized for experimental use in future public health emergencies.
The potential threat of biological warfare with a specific agent is proportional to the susceptibility of the population to that agent. Preventing disease after exposure to a biological agent is partially a function of the immunity of the exposed individual. The only available countermeasure that can provide immediate immunity against a biological agent is passive antibody. Unlike vaccines, which require time to induce protective immunity and depend on the host’s ability to mount an immune response, passive antibody can theoretically confer protection regardless of the immune status of the host. Passive antibody therapy has substantial advantages over antimicrobial agents and other measures for postexposure prophylaxis, including low toxicity and high specific activity. Specific antibodies are active against the major agents of bioterrorism, including anthrax, smallpox, botulinum toxin, tularemia, and plague. This article proposes a biological defense initiative based on developing, producing, and stockpiling specific antibody reagents that can be used to protect the population against biological warfare threats.
anthrax; antibody; biological weapons; bioterrorism; vaccines; immunization; immune; botulinum; toxin; brucellosis; Brucella; Bacillus anthracis; plague; Yersinia; smallpox; variola; tularemia; Francisella tularensis; ricin; Q fever; Coxiella burnetii
Inappropriate use of antibiotics promotes antibiotic resistance. Little is known about physician characteristics that may be associated with inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. Our objective was to assess whether physician knowledge, time in practice, place of training and practice volume explain the differences in antibiotic prescribing among physicians.
A historical cohort of 852 primary care physicians in Quebec who became certified between 1990 and 1993 was followed for their first 6–9 years of practice (1990–1998). We evaluated whether inappropriate antibiotic prescribing had occurred during the study period (1990–1998) for viral (prescription of antibiotics) and bacterial (prescription of second-or third-line antibiotics given orally) infections. We used logistic regression to estimate the independent contributions of time in practice, practice volume, place of medical training and scores on licensure examinations. Physician sex and visit setting were controlled for, as were patient age, sex, education, income and geographic area of residence.
A total of 104 230 patients who received a diagnosis of a viral infection and 65 304 who received a diagnosis of a bacterial infection were included in our study. International medical graduates were more likely than University of Montréal graduates to prescribe antibiotics for viral respiratory infections (risk ratio [RR] 1.78, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.30–2.44). Inappropriate antibiotic prescribing increased with time in practice. Physicians with a high practice volume were more likely than those with low practice volume to prescribe antibiotics for viral respiratory infections (RR 1.27, 95% CI 1.09–1.48) and to prescribe second-and third-line antibiotics as first-line treatment (RR 1.20, 95% CI 1.06–1.37). Physician scores on licensure examinations were not predictive of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.
International medical graduates, physicians with high-volume practices and those who were in practice longer were more likely to prescribe antibiotics inappropriately. Developing effective interventions will require increased knowledge of the mechanisms that underlie these predictors of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.
Method: A retrospective survey was carried out of physicians representative of all UK GUM clinics using self completed questionnaires requesting information for January to December 1999. The number of requests for NONOPEP, reasons for the requests, the number prescribed, and physician opinions regarding the justification for its administration were noted.
Results: The number of requests and prescriptions for NONOPEP increased fourfold and sevenfold respectively in comparison with a survey from 1997. Of 242 requests, 130 people were prescribed NONOPEP. Half the requests followed sexual exposures between known HIV discordant couples. Requests for NONOPEP were received by 56 of 132 (42%) clinics, with nine clinics receiving over half of them (145/242, 60%). Similarly, over half the prescriptions for NONOPEP (83/130, 64%) were given by six of 39 prescribing clinics. Most physicians thought that post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) was justified for people exposed to a known HIV positive source patient resulting from sexual assault or unprotected receptive anal or peno-vaginal sex.
Conclusion: The use of NONOPEP has increased since the last survey and there is considerable variation between GUM clinics in practice and beliefs regarding administration of NONOPEP.
Bacillus anthracis infection is rare in developed countries. However, recent outbreaks in the United States and Europe and the potential use of the bacteria for bioterrorism have focused interest on it. Furthermore, although anthrax was known to typically occur as one of three syndromes related to entry site of (i.e., cutaneous, gastrointestinal, or inhalational), a fourth syndrome including severe soft tissue infection in injectional drug users is emerging. Although shock has been described with cutaneous anthrax, it appears much more common with gastrointestinal, inhalational (5 of 11 patients in the 2001 outbreak in the United States), and injectional anthrax. Based in part on case series, the estimated mortalities of cutaneous, gastrointestinal, inhalational, and injectional anthrax are 1%, 25 to 60%, 46%, and 33%, respectively. Nonspecific early symptomatology makes initial identification of anthrax cases difficult. Clues to anthrax infection include history of exposure to herbivore animal products, heroin use, or clustering of patients with similar respiratory symptoms concerning for a bioterrorist event. Once anthrax is suspected, the diagnosis can usually be made with Gram stain and culture from blood or surgical specimens followed by confirmatory testing (e.g., PCR or immunohistochemistry). Although antibiotic therapy (largely quinolone-based) is the mainstay of anthrax treatment, the use of adjunctive therapies such as anthrax toxin antagonists is a consideration.
Bacillus anthracis; diagnosis; pathogenesis; treatment
We used unpublished reports, published manuscripts, and communication with investigators to identify and summarize 49 anthrax-related epidemiologic field investigations conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1950 to August 2001. Of 41 investigations in which Bacillus anthracis caused human or animal disease, 24 were in agricultural settings, 11 in textile mills, and 6 in other settings. Among the other investigations, two focused on building decontamination, one was a response to bioterrorism threats, and five involved other causes. Knowledge gained in these investigations helped guide the public health response to the October 2001 intentional release of B. anthracis, especially by addressing the management of anthrax threats, prevention of occupational anthrax, use of antibiotic prophylaxis in exposed persons, use of vaccination, spread of B. anthracis spores in aerosols, clinical diagnostic and laboratory confirmation methods, techniques for environmental sampling of exposed surfaces, and methods for decontaminating buildings.
anthrax; Bacillus anthracis; bacterial infections; disease outbreaks; public health; bioterrorism; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.); historical article (publication type); zoonoses
Rapid public health response to a large-scale anthrax attack would reduce overall morbidity and mortality. However, there is uncertainty about the optimal cost-effective response strategy based on timing of intervention, public health resources, and critical care facilities. We conducted a decision analytic study to compare response strategies to a theoretical large-scale anthrax attack on the Chicago metropolitan area beginning either Day 2 or Day 5 after the attack. These strategies correspond to the policy options set forth by the Anthrax Modeling Working Group for population-wide responses to a large-scale anthrax attack: (1) postattack antibiotic prophylaxis, (2) postattack antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination, (3) preattack vaccination with postattack antibiotic prophylaxis, and (4) preattack vaccination with postattack antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination. Outcomes were measured in costs, lives saved, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs). We estimated that postattack antibiotic prophylaxis of all 1,390,000 anthrax-exposed people beginning on Day 2 after attack would result in 205,835 infected victims, 35,049 fulminant victims, and 28,612 deaths. Only 6,437 (18.5%) of the fulminant victims could be saved with the existing critical care facilities in the Chicago metropolitan area. Mortality would increase to 69,136 if the response strategy began on Day 5. Including postattack vaccination with antibiotic prophylaxis of all exposed people reduces mortality and is cost-effective for both Day 2 (ICER=$182/QALY) and Day 5 (ICER=$1,088/QALY) response strategies. Increasing ICU bed availability significantly reduces mortality for all response strategies. We conclude that postattack antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination of all exposed people is the optimal cost-effective response strategy for a large-scale anthrax attack. Our findings support the US government's plan to provide antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination for all exposed people within 48 hours of the recognition of a large-scale anthrax attack. Future policies should consider expanding critical care capacity to allow for the rescue of more victims.
Rapid public health response to a large-scale anthrax attack would reduce overall morbidity and mortality, but what is the optimal cost-effective response strategy for timing of intervention, public health resources, and critical care facilities? Using a hypothetical large-scale anthrax attack on the Chicago metropolitan area, this study compared response strategies that would begin either 2 days or 5 days after the attack and would consist of administering prophylaxis and vaccine in various combinations. The findings support the government's plan to provide antibiotic prophylaxis and vaccination for all exposed people within 48 hours of the recognition of a large-scale anthrax attack.
Inappropriate use of antimicrobials to treat acute upper respiratory tract infections (URIs), which usually have a viral etiology, contributes to emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in Streptococcus pneumoniae and other human bacterial pathogens.
To reduce antimicrobial use for management of acute URIs in adult and pediatric patients.
Prospective, nonrandomized, controlled trial.
Four primary care clinics within a staff model HMO in Detroit, Mich.
Twenty-one primary care physicians at clinics where the educational intervention was implemented, and 9 primary care physicians at control clinics where no educational programs were implemented.
Antibiotic prescribing for acute URIs during the baseline and study years among the intervention and control groups.
A generalized linear mixed-effects model was used and showed that antimicrobial prescribing among the intervention group physicians decreased 24.6% from the baseline to the postintervention period (P<.0001) for both pediatric and adult medicine physicians. From the baseline to the study period, there was no significant decline in rates of antimicrobial prescribing by the control group of physicians (pediatricians, P=.35; internists, P=.42). The rates of decline in antimicrobial prescribing differed significantly between the intervention and control groups (P<.0003 for pediatricians and P<.01 for Internists).
An interactive, case-based educational program for physicians and their staff proved effective for reducing unwarranted prescribing of antibiotics in the treatment of URIs by primary care physicians in a Medicaid HMO setting.
antimicrobial resistance; antimicrobial prescribing; upper respiratory tract infections (URIs); Medicaid; HMO
The purpose of this study was to compare physicians' perceptions about managed care restrictions on drug prescribing with objective measures of the restrictions' effects. When asked a general question, 17 emergency medicine physicians in one urban, university hospital answered that they had to prescribe an antibiotic that was not their first choice because of managed care restrictions 32% of the time. The actual frequency of prescribing other than first-choice antibiotics, which was determined by asking the same physicians about the prescription of specific antibiotics for specific patients seen recently in the emergency department, was 6% (p < .0001). We conclude that emercency medicine physicians treating patients in one managed care system significantly overstimated the restrictions imposed by managed care formularies on their antibiotic prescribing practices. Additional studies are warranted to measure the extent of this bias.
antibiotics; managed care; prescription
Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs has increased rapidly in the United States during the last decade, yet little is known about its effects on prescribing decisions in primary care. We compared prescribing decisions in a US setting with legal DTCA and a Canadian setting where DTCA of prescription drugs is illegal, but some cross-border exposure occurs.
We recruited primary care physicians working in Sacramento, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia, and their group practice partners to participate in the study. On pre- selected days, patients aged 18 years or more completed a questionnaire before seeing their physician. We asked these patients' physicians to complete a brief questionnaire immediately following the selected patient visit. By pairing individual patient and physician responses, we determined how many patients had been exposed to some form of DTCA, the frequency of patients' requests for prescriptions for advertised medicines and the frequency of prescriptions that were stimulated by the patients' requests. We measured physicians' confidence in treatment choice for each new prescription by asking them whether they would prescribe this drug to a patient with the same condition.
Seventy-eight physicians (Sacramento n = 38, Vancouver n = 40) and 1431 adult patients (Sacramento n = 683, Vancouver n = 748), or 61% of patients who consulted participating physicians on pre-set days, participated in the survey. Exposure to DTCA was higher in Sacramento, although 87.4% of Vancouver patients had seen prescription drug advertisements. Of the Sacramento patients, 7.2% requested advertised drugs as opposed to 3.3% in Vancouver (odds ratio [OR] 2.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2–4.1). Patients with higher self- reported exposure to advertising, conditions that were potentially treatable by advertised drugs, and/or greater reliance on advertising requested more advertised medicines. Physicians fulfilled most requests for DTCA drugs (for 72% of patients in Vancouver and 78% in Sacramento); this difference was not statistically significant. Patients who requested DTCA drugs were much more likely to receive 1 or more new prescriptions (for requested drugs or alternatives) than those who did not request DTCA drugs (OR 16.9, 95% CI 7.5–38.2). Physicians judged 50.0% of new prescriptions for requested DTCA drugs to be only “possible” or “unlikely” choices for other similar patients, as compared with 12.4% of new prescriptions not requested by patients (p < 0.001).
Our results suggest that more advertising leads to more requests for advertised medicines, and more prescriptions. If DTCA opens a conversation between patients and physicians, that conversation is highly likely to end with a prescription, often despite physician ambivalence about treatment choice.
The CDC recommend 60 days of oral antibiotics combined with a three-dose series of the anthrax vaccine for prophylaxis after potential exposure to aerosolized Bacillus anthracis spores. The anthrax vaccine is currently not licensed for anthrax postexposure prophylaxis and has to be made available under an Investigational New Drug protocol. Postexposure prophylaxis based on antibiotics can be problematic in cases where the use of antibiotics is contraindicated. Furthermore, there is a concern that an exposure could involve antibiotic-resistant strains of B. anthracis. Availability of alternate treatment modalities that are effective in prophylaxis of inhalation anthrax is therefore highly desirable. A major research focus toward this end has been on passive immunization using polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies against B. anthracis toxin components. Since 2001, significant progress has been made in isolation and commercial development of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies that function as potent neutralizers of anthrax lethal toxin in both a prophylactic and therapeutic setting. Several new products have completed Phase I clinical trials and are slated for addition to the National Strategic Stockpile. These rapid advances were possible because of major funding made available by the US government through programs such as Bioshield and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Continued government funding is critical to support the development of a robust biodefense industry.
antibiotic treatment; biodefense funding; inhalation anthrax; lethal factor; medical countermeasures; prophylactic antibodies; protective antigen; vaccination
Health emergency planning for preparedness and response against acts of terrorism, including the malfeasant threat or actual release of biological agents designed to harm others, has assumed a higher level of concern for most western nations, including Canada, following the explosive attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. These terrorist attacks were followed by an outbreak of anthrax infections. The Bacillus anthracis spores in these attacks were dispersed by using regular postal services in the United States. In addition to the unsettling sense of social vulnerability that resulted from these attacks, a greater appreciation that the integration of public health, emergency health and social services with security activities was required to fully address the need to protect the health and other interests of the citizens. Collaborative work among regional, provincial, territorial, federal and international authorities within these domains is emerging as an effective response to the risk management of bioterrorism. The following is a brief description of the health framework for preparedness and response, and the biological agents of major concern in terrorism.
Bioterrorism; Health emergency
To investigate antibiotic consumption in a sample of physicians from Osijek-Baranja county in Eastern Croatia and to determine the volume of prescribed antimicrobials and assess the appropriateness of prescribing practices.
Analysis of routine prescribing data was carried out in 30 primary care practices in both urban and rural communities of eastern Croatia, corresponding to a total population of 48 000 patients. Prescribing practices were studied over a period of 3 years, from 2003 to 2005. Both the quantity of antimicrobials and differences and similarities between individual practitioners were analyzed.
Urban and rural practices did not significantly differ in regard to the volume of antimicrobials prescribed. However, significant differences were found between individual physicians. Total consumption was 17.73 defined daily doses per 1000 inhabitants per day or 6456.85 defined daily doses per 1000 inhabitants per year. The 10 most frequently used antimicrobials (93.70% of the total quantity) were amoxicillin, co-amoxiclav, co-trimoxazole, cephalexin, norfloxacin, penicillin V, azithromycin, cefuroxime, doxycycline, and nitrofurantoin. Sore throat was the most frequent reason for prescribing antibiotics.
Prescription of medicines in Osijek-Baranja county was characterized by high consumption of broad-spectrum penicillins, combined penicillins, combined sulfonamides and long-acting macrolides (azithromycin), together with disproportionately low use of doxycycline and erythromycin. The use of combined sulfonamides and azithromycin in this part of Croatia was among the highest in Europe. Great differences between prescribers in regard to indication-based prescribing have been found, and future studies should examine the factors behind these heterogeneous practices.
In October 2001, four cases of inhalational anthrax occurred in workers in a Washington, D.C., mail facility that processed envelopes containing Bacillus anthracis spores. We reviewed the envelopes’ paths and obtained exposure histories and nasal swab cultures from postal workers. Environmental sampling was performed. A sample of employees was assessed for antibody concentrations to B. anthracis protective antigen. Case-patients worked on nonoverlapping shifts throughout the facility. Environmental sampling showed diffuse contamination of the facility, suggesting multiple aerosolization events. Potential workplace exposures were similar for the case-patients and the sample of workers. All nasal swab cultures and serum antibody tests were negative. Available tools could not identify subgroups of employees at higher risk for exposure or disease. Prophylaxis was necessary for all employees. To protect postal workers against bioterrorism, measures to reduce the risk of occupational exposure are necessary.
bioterrorism; Bacillus anthracis; postal facility; inhalational anthrax