Daily Updates

April 11, 2013

Medication nation: Study shows antibiotic overuse

NEW YORK — U.S. doctors are prescribing enough antibiotics to give them to 4 out of 5 Americans every year, an alarming pace that suggests they are being overused, a new government study finds.

Overuse is one reason antibiotics are losing their punch, making infections harder to treat. The report released Wednesday gives the first detailed look at usage of these medicines in every state and finds it highest in the South and Appalachia.

“It sounds high,” said Keith Rodvold, a professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

There is no scientific consensus on an appropriate level of antibiotic prescribing. But some experts said the new study’s results are disturbing, and that rates are probably excessive even in the states with the lowest antibiotic prescription levels.

Antibiotics have been commonly available since the 1940s, and have done wonders at saving patients with infections ranging from pneumonia to sexually spread diseases. But bacteria have increasingly gained the power to shrug off antibiotics.

Experts say chances of resistance increase when antibiotics are not used long enough or are taken for the wrong reasons, allowing bacteria to survive and adapt. The Centers for Disease control and Prevention is tracking at least 20 strains of resistant bacteria.

CDC researchers conducted the new study, analyzing a national prescription drug database for 2010. The findings are being published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Other studies have focused on antibiotic prescriptions for specific groups like Medicare patients. This is the first to look at it for all Americans.

Doctors and other health care providers prescribed 258 million courses of antibiotics in 2010, for a population just shy of 309 million, the researchers found. That translates to 833 antibiotic prescriptions for every 1,000 people, on average.

But rates were much higher in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, where about 1,200 were written for every 1,000 people. On the low end were Alaska, Oregon and California, where prescriptions were at or below 600. Earlier studies found similar geographic trends.

Why the difference?

One possibility: Southerners suffer more infections than people in other parts of the country.

Southern states have the highest rates of obesity and diabetes, and diabetics tend to have more infections than other people, noted the CDC’s Dr. Lauri Hicks, one of the study’s authors.

“So some of that prescribing may be warranted,” she said.

During the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and 2010, the South saw more reports of illness than other parts of the country.  Experts at the time said patients with flu-related pneumonia should be treated with both antiviral medicines and antibiotics to prevent all forms of deadly complications, Rodvold noted.

The South also has higher rates of certain other respiratory infections, including bronchitis, according to a study last year by University of Pittsburgh researchers.

And the CDC study found the most frequently prescribed antibiotic was azithromycin, which is commonly used for bronchitis symptoms. But that’s a problem. Bronchitis is usually caused by a virus, and antibiotics like azithromycin don’t work against viruses.

“Some of the prescribing may not be warranted,” Hicks said.

———     

Online:

Journal: http://www.nejm.org

 

1
Text Only
Daily Updates
  • 10 Things to Know for Thursday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday.

    April 23, 2014

  • In Other News, April 23

    April 23, 2014

  • US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Justice Department is encouraging nonviolent federal inmates who have behaved in prison, have no significant criminal history and have already served more than 10 years behind bars to apply for clemency, officials announced Wednesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • High court tosses $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 23, 2014

  • Airport security vulnerabilities not uncommon

    For all the tens of billions of dollars that the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes themselves.

    April 23, 2014

  • Deal signs bill expanding gun rights in Georgia

    Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation expanding where people with licenses to carry can bring their guns in Georgia.

    April 23, 2014

  • Indian film awards arrive in Tampa, Fla., but why?

    The so-called Bollywood Oscars have been held in Macau, Singapore, London — and now, Tampa?

    April 23, 2014

  • Indictment: Prosecutor targeted in kidnapping plot

    A North Carolina prosecutor was the intended target of an elaborate kidnapping plot, but the kidnappers looked up the wrong address on the Internet and abducted the prosecutor’s father instead, according to an indictment released Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Republican activists push party on gay marriage

    As bans against gay marriage crumble and public opinion on the issue shifts rapidly, some Republicans are pushing the party to drop its opposition to same-sex unions, part of a broader campaign to get the GOP to appeal to younger voters by de-emphasizing social issues.

    April 23, 2014

  • Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying

    Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

    April 23, 2014