Unnecessary use of antibiotics is contributing to one of the biggest public health challenges in the United States – antibiotic resistance. And, new research has found that up to 43% of antibiotic prescriptions are being prescribed inappropriately. Researchers analyzed data from medical visits in 2015 and discovered millions of people were taking antibiotics they don’t need. Of the 130 million prescriptions written, 13% were for antibiotics. When researchers evaluated the diagnostic codes accompanying those prescriptions, they found that 25% of them, about 32 million prescriptions, were considered inappropriate or unnecessary. What’s more, 18% of them, about 24 million prescriptions, were either not documented clearly or did not have a diagnostic code at all.

Unnecessary Prescriptions

What was most surprising to me as a physician was that specialists were more likely to write an inappropriate prescription than family doctors were. Some of the prescriptions were for viral illnesses like upper respiratory tract infections. So we really need to be careful, because antibiotic resistance is on the rise, especially for things like tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and bacterial pneumonia.

Take Only As Directed

It’s extremely important to take antibiotics only as needed. They are used to kill or prevent bacteria that makes you sick from multiplying. Please keep in mind they do not work for a cold or common flu, so please do not request antibiotics for these types of ailments. The problem with taking antibiotics when you don’t need to is that it actually does them more good than harm. They evolve to evade the drug – thus giving rise to antibiotic resistance. About 2.8 million Americans contract and survive antibiotic-resistant infections every year. However, according to the CDC, they also kill roughly 35,000 people a year. And the rate of resistance is rising. Infections are becoming harder to treat, which puts more people at risk of dying from illnesses that were previously treated by antibiotics.

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