-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- When a woman is diagnosed
with a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia or
gonorrhea, her doctor should be able to pass along antibiotics to
her male partner without examining him, to cut both partners' odds
of re-infection, experts say.
The new physician guideline was issued this week by the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the nation's
largest group representing ob/gyns.
In a new committee opinion, the ACOG panel of experts stated
that doctors who diagnose their female patients with these
infections should pass along a prescription for antibiotics to the
male partner -- a practice called "expedited partner therapy."
"Evidence indicates that [this type of approach] can decrease re-infection rates" compared to the more standard practice of simply referring the patient's partner for examination and treatment, Dr. Diane F. Merritt, chair of ACOG's Committee on Adolescent Health Care, said in a news release from the college.
"Of course, it's preferable that a physician examine a patient in-person before prescribing medication," she added, but the benefits of the expedited response -- in getting otherwise reluctant partners to get treated -- probably outweigh the risks.
Although they are the two most commonly reported sexually
transmitted infections in the United States, chlamydia and
gonorrhea often cause only vague symptoms, and some women may not
have any symptoms at all. As a result, the re-infection rates for
these conditions are high. For example, ACOG noted the 12-month
re-infection rate of chlamydia among teens and young women is as
high as 26 percent. Untreated male sexual partners, the experts
added, are often to blame.
Many people who have a sexually transmitted infection are not
aware of it and pass it to their partners, added Merritt. Left
undiagnosed and untreated, these infections "can cause scarring and
damage a woman's ability to become pregnant when she's ready to
have a baby," Merritt said. "Fortunately, chlamydia and gonorrhea
can be quickly diagnosed with a simple urine test and treated with
a short course of antibiotics. "
U.S. doctors can only legally prescribe antibiotics to people
who are not their patients in 27 states. Rules governing the
practice are unclear in 15 states, and non-patient prescriptions
are prohibited in 8 states. The ACOG panel concluded that
physicians in these states should push for the enactment of laws
clearly supporting the practice to help curb rates of re-infection
with sexually transmitted diseases.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides
more information on
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