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Are US Physicians Over-Prescribing Antibiotics?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- A new study finds doctors may be over-prescribing antibiotics.
 
For every 1,000 people in the U.S., over 800 antibiotic prescriptions were written in 2010 -- alarming numbers, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers Disease Control and Prevention.  Rates were even higher in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, where about 1,200 antibiotic prescriptions were written for every 1,000 people.  

According to HealthDay study author Lauri Hicks, the CDC medical director, said it's difficult to pinpoint a cause for the regional variations in the findings.

"Why is West Virginia more than double compared to Alaska? I imagine there are provider factors, patient factors and cultural factors that are all shaping the impact," Hicks is quoted as saying in HealthDay.

The CDC says antibiotics are losing their punch because they're being overused.  Hicks said some patients may put pressure on their doctors to prescribe the meds as a "quick fix" so they may return to their jobs sooner. But if this is the case, it may be only adding to the growing problem of resistance, she adds.

"We should be thinking of antibiotics not as a magic bullet, but as a precious resource that we should only use when absolutely necessary," said Hicks.

The CDC's findings will be published in the April 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Other findings the CDC researchers found include:

  • Penicillin and a class of antibiotics known as macrolides (including drugs such as azithromycin and erythromycin, for example) were the most commonly prescribed.
  • Prescription rates were higher in the South (936 prescriptions per 1,000 people) and lower in the West (639 prescriptions per 1,000 people).
  • Prescriptions were more frequently written for children under 10 and adults aged 65 and older.
  • Prescribing rates varied considerably by physician specialty.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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