November 8, 2011
Over 10 Million Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescriptions Written Each Year
According to a new study, pediatricians write over 10 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions every year for conditions like the flu and asthma.
Researchers looked at about 65,000 outpatient visits by children under 18 during 2006 to 2008 for their study.
They found that doctors prescribed an antibiotic at one in every five visits, with most dispensed for children with respiratory ailments like sinus infections and pneumonia.
About a quarter of all antibiotic prescriptions were given to children with respiratory conditions that did not call for antibiotics, such as the flu, asthma and allergies.
Study leader Adam Hersh of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City said in the journal Pediatrics that over 10 million antibiotic prescriptions each year could be doing more harm than good.
"One reason overuse occurs is because the diagnosis is often unclear -- this is common with ear infections. The decision is made to prescribe an antibiotic even though the diagnosis isn't certain, just to be on the safe side," he told Reuters Health.
Half of all the antibiotics prescribed were drugs that act against a wide range of bacteria, killing more of the good bacteria in the bodies as well and possibly creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria later on.
Hersh suggests asking a doctor about the certainty of a diagnosis before using prescribed antibiotics.
"If the diagnosis is still a little unclear, ask if it would be safe to wait a day or two with close follow up rather than starting the antibiotic right away," Hersh advised.
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