For the first time, study provides precise figures on the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics
In today's society, antibiotics are used extremely often to treat a wide variety of diseases. Scientists have now found that a third of the antibiotics prescribed are not really needed. Most doctors' offices and emergency rooms are too light-handed with the drug, according to the researchers. This increases the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.
All over the world, patients, doctors and medical professionals are afraid of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The likelihood of such strains of resistant pathogens continues to increase because people generally use antibiotics too often. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pew Charitable Trust found in a recent study that about a third of all prescribed antibiotics are not required in the United States. The doctors published the results of their investigation in the journal "JAMA".
Approximately 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions annually in the United States alone
Doctors and medical professionals too often prescribe antibiotics these days. In the United States alone, approximately 47 million unnecessary prescriptions for the drug are issued each year, the authors explain. Mostly for diseases such as colds, sore throats, bronchitis, flu and general infectious diseases.
Health officials have been warning for years that overuse of antibiotics leads to the development of drug-resistant bacteria. But there have been no exact figures on the frequency of unnecessary use of antibiotics, the doctors say. The new study is so important because it actually delivers concrete figures for the first time, explains Dr. David Hyun from the Pew Charitable Trust. The study analyzed the data from two major CDC surveys from 2010 to 2011, where the majority of all antibiotic prescriptions were recorded.
The most important results at a glance
Over thirteen percent of all outpatient visits to the U.S. (154 million visits annually) result in antibiotic prescriptions, the experts say. About 44 percent of all prescriptions concern respiratory diseases, otitis media, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, allergies, flu and pneumonia. Around half of these prescriptions are superfluous because they are viral diseases, the experts explain. Unfortunately, doctors also often prescribe antibiotics because they are put under pressure by the patients or parents of the patients, explains lead author Katherine Fleming-Dutra from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many medical professionals are concerned about the increasing demand for antibiotics.
However, the majority of patients rely on doctors and trust them to make a correct diagnosis. Fleming-Dutra adds that better communication with doctors and doctors about the dangers of “prescribing” antibiotics is important in order to use the drug more responsibly in the future.
Super-pathogens are becoming a growing threat to hospitals and nursing homes
The excessive use of antibiotics has led to the alarming rise in drug-resistant bacteria, so-called super-pathogens. The CDC have warned that such nightmare bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to the most potent types of antibiotics. They are becoming a growing threat to hospitals and nursing homes, the experts say. In the United States alone, an estimated two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are attributable to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the authors add. The United States plans to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics by half by 2020. (as)