Unnecessary Antibiotics Prescriptions Still Widespread In US
October 3, 2013

Unnecessary Antibiotics Prescriptions Still Widespread In US

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Researchers writing in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine unnecessary antibiotics are still being  prescribed across the US.

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) researchers say they found a large discrepancy between outpatient visits requiring antibiotics and national prescribing rates.

"We know that antibiotic prescribing, particularly to patients who are not likely to benefit from it, increases the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing concern both here in the United States and around the world," stated Jeffrey A. Linder, MD, MPH, a physician and researcher in the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at BWH and senior author of the paper.

He said that while only 10 percent of adults with sore throats have strep, the only common cause of a sore throat that requires antibiotics, the national antibiotic prescribing rate for adults with sore throat has remained at 60 percent.

"For acute bronchitis, the right antibiotic prescribing rate should be near zero percent and the national antibiotic prescribing rate was 73 percent," Linder added.

The team measured changes in the prescribing of antibiotics for adults with sore throat and acute bronchitis using national representative surveys of ambulatory care in the US from 1996 through 2010. The data represented about 39 million acute bronchitis and 92 million sore throat visits by adults to primary care clinics or emergency departments.

The researchers found that although visits for sore throats decreased from 7.5 percent in 1997 to 4.3 percent of visits in 2010, the overall national antibiotic prescribing rate did not change, with physicians prescribing antibiotics during 60 percent of visits. They also saw no change in the percentage of emergency department visits for a sore throat during the time period.

Scientists saw an increase in the antibiotic prescribing rate in emergency rooms jump from 69 percent to 73 percent during the 14-year period.

"In addition to contributing to the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria, unnecessary use of antibiotics also adds financial cost to the health care system and causes adverse effects for those taking the medication," Michael L. Barnett, MD, lead author of the paper, said in a statement. "Most sore throats and cases of acute bronchitis should be treated with rest and fluids and do not require a visit to the doctor."

Although efforts have been made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the use of antibiotics, they have failed. Researchers are now working on ways to develop and implement new interventions that would reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for respiratory infections.