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To investigate the scale of antimicrobial prescribing without a corresponding visit, and to compare the attributes of patients who received antimicrobials with a corresponding visit with those who did not have a visit.
We followed up 185,010 Medicare patients for 1 year after an acute myocardial infarction. For each antimicrobial prescribed, we determined whether the patient had an inpatient, outpatient, or provider claim in the 7 days prior to the antimicrobial prescription being filled. We compared the proportions of patient characteristics for those prescriptions associated with a visit and without a visit (ie, phantom prescriptions). We also compared the rates at which different antimicrobials were prescribed without a visit.
We found that of 356,545 antimicrobial prescriptions, 14.75% had no evidence of a visit in the week prior to the prescription being filled. A higher percentage of patients without a visit were identified as white (P<.001) and female (P<.001). Patients without a visit had a higher likelihood of survival and fewer additional cardiac events (acute myocardial infarction, cardiac arrest, stroke, all P<.001). Among the antimicrobials considered, amoxicillin, penicillin, and agents containing trimethoprim and methenamine were much more likely to be prescribed without a visit. In contrast, levofloxacin, metronidazole, moxifloxacin, vancomycin, and cefdinir were much less likely to be prescribed without a visit.
Among this cohort of patients with chronic conditions, phantom prescriptions of antimicrobials are relatively common and occurred more frequently among those patients who were relatively healthy.