Monday, November 30, 2015

About 50% of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions unnecessary; South leads nation in most antibiotics

Residents in the South are prescribed more antibiotics than in any other part of the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates "that about 50 percent of antibiotic prescriptions written in outpatient settings, such as primary care offices and clinics, are unnecessary," Lena Sun reports for The Washington Post. West Virginia had the highest rate of prescribed antibiotics in 2014, at 1.24 per person. Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were not far behind.

Over-prescribing is leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, causing public health officials to worry that "even minor infections could become dangerous and that clinicians will lose their ability to treat cancer, transplant organs and save victims of burns and traumas," Sun writes. "At least 2 million Americans become infected every year with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. At least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections."

A Pew Charitable Trust study found that "45 percent of all antibiotics prescribed in outpatient settings in 2013 were written by primary care physicians, including family practice doctors, pediatricians and internal medicine doctors," Sun writes. "They wrote prescriptions for more than 120 million courses of antibiotics—an average of 512 prescriptions each. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners accounted for 18 percent of antibiotics prescribed in these settings, followed by dentists at 9 percent, emergency medicine providers at 5 percent and dermatologists at 3 percent." (Post map)

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