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Faster treatment for partners could reduce rates of STD infection

Mark Tuschman/ITI, originally published in Community Eye Health Journal
Zithromax is one of the drugs commonly used in expedited partner therapy for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Rates of sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise, but many doctors aren't aware of one of the most effective tools for fighting these infections. When a patient comes in for treatment of gonorrhea or chlamydia, their doctor can prescribe antibiotics for their partner at the same time, sight unseen. It’s called expedited partner therapy, or EPT.

EPT was the subject of a review published in the American Journal of Public Healthby three University of Michigan doctors who say it’s not being used often enough because doctors, patients, and pharmacists aren’t aware of it.

“Expedited partner therapy is a health care practice that's been proven to be safe and cost effective in the prevention of chlamydia and gonorrhea," said Dr. Cornelius Jamison, a family medicine fellow with Michigan Medicine and one of the study's authors. "STD rates are continuing to rise. We have something that works. And we need to increase the use of expedited partner therapy because we do have this problem in America."

The CDC introduced the idea of expedited partner therapy in 2006 as a way to address rising rates of STD infections. Most states, including Michigan, now have laws specifically allowing doctors to use EPT. In Michigan, EPT is allowed under Public Act 525 of 2014 for STDs specified by the state health department. Since the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance for the use of EPT in chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Jamison says  lack of awareness of EPT by physicians has been a barrier to implementing EPT. Also, patients are often not aware that they can ask for prescriptions for their partners, and some pharmacists have refused to fill EPT prescriptions. That’s because in Michigan, the EPT prescription written for an unknown partner does not have a name on it, and for the birth date, Jan. 1 of the current year is used. Jamison does not know whether it’s the irregularities in the prescription or some other reason that some pharmacists have not been filling the prescriptions.

Drs. Tammy Chang and Okeoma Mmeje, both from UM, are the other authors of the paper.

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