New Study Shows Doctors Often Inappropriately Prescribe Antibiotics

A new study of 184,032 visits, titled Prevalence of Antibiotic Prescriptions Among US Ambulatory Care Visits, 2010-2011 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that nearly one-third of Americans prescribed antibiotics during doctor’s office visits probably should not have received the drugs, were not given a long enough course or did not get the right dose.

The study comes as rates of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 23,000 Americans die and 2 million more become sick due to antibiotic resistant bacteria each year.

Dr. Katherine E Fleming-Dutra, a CDC researcher and lead author on the study said, "This study shows that there certainly is a lot more work to be done. It is so critical to preserve antibiotics for the future, to make sure they work." In addition, the study used two national surveys to estimate the rate of "inappropriate" antibiotic prescribing in primarily doctor’s office settings.

Both the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey are conducted by the federal government.

The study’s nearly two dozen authors used data from the geographical region with the lowest antibiotic prescribing rate to estimate how many of the prescriptions were needed, excluding some illnesses. Based on the study's findings, up to 30 percent of the antibiotics prescribed by doctors to American outpatients were often inappropriate. Yet, 506 out of every 1,000 Americans are prescribed antibiotics every year.

Sinusitis was one of the top diagnoses where patients leave with antibiotics. Next are ear infections, which account for 47 prescriptions out of every 1,000 people. Then, it is sore throats for 43.

Moreover, in a 2013 report on antibiotic resistance by the CDC, an estimated 50% of antibiotic prescriptions were found to have been "not needed or not optimally effective as prescribed." The CDC also called on the FDA to phase out all antibiotic use in animals grown as food when they are used as growth stimulants. These types of antibiotics cause problems because they reduce the overall effectiveness of the drugs as bacteria evolve to combat them.

Photo: In USA News, Washington Post

Doctors prescribing incorrect medication leads to multiple problems.

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