Study finds continued overprescribing of antibiotics

Brigham and Women's Hospital finds no change in antibiotic prescriptions for sore throat, acute bronchitis

NEW YORK — Doctors have continued prescribing antibiotics for mild conditions that don't require them despite decades of efforts by government authorities to discourage the practice, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine and presented last week at IDWeek, found that while only 10% of adults with sore throats have strep throat — a bacterial infection — the rate of prescriptions of antibiotics for the condition has remained at 60%; for acute bronchitis, the rate was 73%, even though the appropriate rate of antibiotic prescriptions for that condition should be "near 0%."

"We know that antibiotic prescribing, particularly to patients who are not likely to benefit from it, increases the prevalence of antibiotic-resistance, a growing concern both here in the United States and around the world," Brigham and Women's physician and researcher and senior study author Jeffrey Linder said.

The study was based on a measurement of changes in antibiotic prescribing for adults with sore throat and acute bronchitis using nationally representative surveys of ambulatory care in the United States from 1996 to 2010, representing 39 million visits to primary care clinics or emergency departments due to acute bronchitis and 92 million visits due to sore throat. The lack of change in prescriptions occurred despite a reduction in the number of visits to primary care offices for sore throat between 1997 and 2010. During roughly the same period, emergency room visits for sore throat remained unchanged, while acute bronchitis visits increased.


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