Colorado: Antibiotics for Sex Partners Tried in Chlamydia Fight
April 4, 2002
Alarmed by chlamydia's high reinfection rate in Denver, doctors will allow people with this most common STD to bring home extra doses of antibiotics for sex partners who refuse to get tested. Twenty percent of those diagnosed with chlamydia in the city get it again, usually from the same partner. It infected more than 13,000 people last year in Colorado.
Although doctors all over the country already unofficially give people extra antibiotics for their partners, Colorado would be the second state to officially endorse the somewhat controversial measure, federal and state experts said. If all goes well, Denver may consider allowing people with gonorrhea to take home extra drugs, too.
"It's hard to know whether it will be a major improvement, but we clearly need other tools," said Dr. John Douglas, director of STD control for the Denver Public Health Department and Denver's leading proponent of partner drug-sharing. "We know it's hard for people to get their partners treated." The responsibility tends to fall on women because they feel symptoms of chlamydia more than men and are more likely to seek treatment. Women are also hurt more in the long run: untreated chlamydia can spur pelvic inflammatory infections and lead to infertility.
But the practice of giving people drugs without a prescription draws some skepticism. If someone had an allergic reaction, for example, the doctor could be liable. "We generally believe that a patient should see a physician before any medication is prescribed," said Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, president-elect of the Colorado Medical Society. Doctors also say that overusing antibiotics can spawn bigger bacterial infections that are resistant to typical treatment.
A University of California-San Francisco study found that partner-sharing reduced reinfection rates by about 8 percent. California health officials have followed the practice for more than a year, but cannot say how many people have benefited from it. It also remains unclear whether most health plans would cover extra antibiotics for a partner. Cynthia Glocker in the CDC's office of HIV, STD and TB Prevention said the agency is concerned about partner drug-sharing but is just starting to research the issue.
04.04.02; Allison Sherry
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.