Balancing Safety and Accessibility: Trusting Patients with History of Drug Abuse to Responsibly Use IV Antibiotics

Patients who require a few weeks of IV antibiotics are usually given a peripherally inserted or percutaneous indwelling central catheter line, commonly known as a “PICC” line, to allow them to receive their IV treatment at home if they otherwise don’t need to be hospitalized. Until recently, this arrangement was not an option for patients with a history of drug addiction. The fear was that the PICC line could be used as a fast and easy way to get high by pushing drugs like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines through the line. However, restricting patients for weeks, or even months, to a hospital room just for IV treatment is not practical. Patients aren’t willing to “be held captive,” especially when they are otherwise healthy, and they are not willing to pay for their extended hospital stays. Balancing bioethical principles inspired the Bridge Clinic in Massachusetts to launch a pilot study to develop safe and feasible ways for these patients to be treated at home. 

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Blog post authored by Rebecca Falk

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