Lawsuit fears potential cause of increase in MRSA rates

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Healthcare settings have seen a rise in the incidence of MRSA infections. A new study suggests that overuse of antibiotics from fear of lawsuit by physicians could be playing a role in the increase in MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus)in hospital and other health care settings.

The study, conducted by New York Medical College researchers suggest that doctors may be prescribing antibiotics when clinical evidence for the need is lacking. The team of researchers analyzed data on antibiotic use in the United States, Canada, and 15 European countries, finding that methicillin resistant infections are more prevalent in areas that have a higher density of attorneys in Europe and North America.


George Sakoulas, M.D., assistant professor of medicine is lead study authors. The study authors write, "Further investigation is warranted to study whether physicians' perceived fear of lawsuits, of which attorney density may be a crude surrogate marker, results in antibiotic prescription practices that contribute to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance among virulent pathogens such as S. aureus, with global implications on the ethics of the delivery of quality health care to all members of society." No correlation was found between the number of physicians in a given area and prevalence of MRSA.

The findings also revealed that physicians are more concerned with lawsuits from under prescribing antibiotics than overprescribing, in a survey of 162 healthcare providers.

The research suggests that medical tort reform might play a role in reducing health care costs while improving healthcare quality. The findings that lawsuit fears may be contributing to increased rates of MRSA in health care settings also points to the need for more judicious prescribing of antibiotics among physicians, based on clinical evidence rather than fear of lawsuits.

American Journal of Therapeutics