Healthcare Providers Still Over-Prescribing Antibiotics

Research published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 reveals that despite the risks of antibiotic-resistant bacteria developing from the overuse of antibiotics, healthcare providers are over-prescribing antibiotics to non-hospitalized patients.

A team of researchers surveyed data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2010 to 2011 to determine the rate of oral antibiotic prescriptions written for outpatients. What the numbers revealed that a full 30 percent of prescriptions written were unnecessary. In the case of upper respiratory infections, 50 percent of the antibiotics prescribed were unneeded.

The diagnoses for which the most unnecessary antibiotics were prescribed included sinusitis, ear infections with purulent drainage, and sore throat.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Katherine Fleming-Dutra of the CDC explained that although the data examined was some years old, she felt confident that those prescribing rates haven’t changed substantially. She also explained to “Medical Daily” that the numbers analyzed in this research did not take into account inappropriate use of antibiotics – prescribing the wrong antibiotic for an infection – or the misuse of antibiotics – inappropriate dosages or duration of treatment.

Unlike previous studies that concentrated on a single diagnosis to determine over-prescribing of antibiotics, this research examined the full spectrum of diagnoses to get an overall picture and baseline for the federal government’s pledge to reduce the rate of over-prescribing of medicines by 50 percent by 2020.

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Both healthcare providers and their patients’ shoulder the blame for some of the current over-prescribing of antibiotics. Healthcare providers sometimes prescribe antibiotics due to their patients’ expectations that antibiotics are needed for whatever malady they present. Providers do this to maintain a positive provider-patient relationship. Patients, for the most part, are not trained medical personnel and may believe only an antibiotic will solve their health problem.

The healthcare provider shoulders the burden of responsibility in the provider-patient relationship, both to educate the patient and not to prescribe medication that is unneeded. Patients who better understand the potential for side effects from antibiotics, the potential to develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and that some illnesses don’t warrant an antibiotic for healing will be less likely to push healthcare providers to do that which their training tells them is contrary to the best health interests of the patient.

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