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Drugs Today (Barc). 2001 May;37(5):311-319.

Intravenous to oral antibiotic switch therapy.

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  • Chief, Infectious Disease Division, Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, New York and Professor of Medicine, State University of New York School of Medicine, Stony Brook, New York, USA.


I.v.-to-p.o. switch therapy has become the mainstay of antibiotic therapy for the majority of patients. I.v.-to-p.o. switch therapy is inappropriate for critically ill patients who require i.v. antibiotic therapy and should not be considered in patients who have the inability to absorb drugs. These exceptions constitute a very small percentage of hospitalized patients for which i.v.-to-p.o. switch therapy is ideal. I.v.-to-p.o. switch therapy is best achieved with antibiotics that have high bioavailability that result in the same blood and tissue concentrations of antibiotic as their intravenous counterpart and have few gastrointestinal side effects. Antibiotics ideal for i.v.-to-p.o. switch programs include chloramphenicol, clindamycin, metronidazole, TMP-SMX, fluconazole, itraconazole, voriconazole, doxycycline, minocycline, levofloxacin, gatifloxacin, moxifloxacin and linezolid. Antibiotics that may be used in i.v.-to-p.o. switch programs that have lower bioavailability but are effective include beta-lactams and macrolides. For antibiotics with no oral formulation, e.g., carbapenems, equivalent coverage must be provided with an oral antibiotic from an unrelated class. Excluding gastrointestinal malabsorptive disorders, disease state is not a determinant of suitability for i.v.-to-p.o. switch programs. I.v.-to-p.o. switch programs should be used in patients with any infectious disease disorder for which there is effective oral therapy and is not limited to certain infectious diseases. Oral absorption of antibiotics is near normal in all but the most critically ill patients. Therefore, even in sick, hospitalized individuals, p.o. therapy is appropriate. I.v-to-p.o. switch therapy has several important advantages including decreasing drug cost (i.v. vs. p.o.), decreasing length of stay permitting earlier discharge and optimal reimbursement and decreasing or eliminating i.v. line phlebitis and sepsis with its cost implications. Clinicians should consider all patients, except the most critically ill or those unable to absorb oral medications, as candidates for treatment for most or all of their antibiotic treatment with oral antibiotics. (c) 2001 Prous Science. All rights reserved.

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