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Yet Another Warning About Antibiotic Overprescribing

Yet Another Warning About Antibiotic Overprescribing

Frank Diamond

Sisyphus had to roll that boulder up the hill as punishment for deceit. Telling the truth has its own rewards, thankfully, because sometimes that too can seem a Sisyphean enterprise. Yet another warning that antibiotics are being overprescribed, this time in a letter in the April 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (http://tinyurl.com/antibiotic-prescribing). The authors note that over 50 percent of antibiotics are distributed unnecessarily and find — surprise! — wide variation in prescribing patterns based on provider specialty, patient age, and location.

“Prescribing rates were higher among persons younger than 10 years of age and persons 65 years of age or older,” write authors Lauri A. Hicks, DO, and Thomas H. Taylor, Jr., MS. They examined 2010 data in the IMS Health Xponent database and found that 258 million courses of antibiotics were prescribed. Prescribing rates were highest in the South. The most frequently prescribed antibiotic agent was azithromycin.

Here’s some context: Almost 90 percent of Americans know that antibiotics can treat bacterial infections, but a third also believe that they can fight viral infections as well, according to a poll by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year. More context? How about the soaring growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs? Keep pushing that rock.