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Almost one-third of antibiotics prescribed in U.S. are not needed

Based on information from a 2013 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the U.S. at least two million people become infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and 23,000 or more die as a result of these infections.

This is a horrible statistic and one that is totally unnecessary. A study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that one-third of prescriptions written for antibiotics, 47,000, were written for viral infections, like bronchitis or the common cold.

The study also found that prescriptions were also written for ear and sinus infections and sore throats not caused by bacterial infections. The point is that an antibiotic won’t help in getting rid of a bacteria that wasn’t there in the first place. Not only is this a waste of money, but it is adding to a much more dangerous problem, that of creating super-bugs.

Key findings in the studies
The Washington Post points out the CDC and JAMA studies are the first to quantify the antibiotic prescription problem in the U.S. “We’ve all been hearing, ‘This is a problem, this is problem,’ and we all understood the general concept that there is a lot of antibiotic use,” said David Hyun, a senior officer with Pew’s antibiotic resistance project and one of the authors of the report published Tuesday in JAMA.


CDC Pew Charitable Trusts

Without a doubt, antibiotic prescriptions represent the majority of dollars spent in the U.S. and antibiotics are life-savings medicines. But the inappropriate use of them in humans and animals is leading this country and the world down a road no one wants to go.

A few of the key findings included:
1. At least 13 percent of all outpatient visits, 154 million annually, resulted in an antibiotic prescription being written.
2. about 44 percent of the prescriptions were written for respiratory problems such as sinus infections, middle ear infections, sore throats, colds, bronchitis, asthma, allergies, flu, and pneumonia.
3. Half of those prescriptions were unnecessary because many of the illnesses were viral in nature.
4, Doctors wrote prescriptions to appease the patient or parents.

Katherine Fleming-Dutra, a CDC medical epidemiologist and report’s lead author said, “Clinicians are concerned about patient satisfaction and the patient demand for antibiotics.” She suggested that better communication between the doctor and patient about the dangers of over-use of antibiotics is needed.

The Phantom-Menace of superbugs
Digital Journal has covered numerous reports of superbugs, bacteria that have become resistant to our most used antibiotics around the world. Particularly worrisome are the gram-negative pathogens becoming resistant to nearly all drugs that would be considered for treatment. An example of some of these pathogens would be E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to name a few. But gram-positive pathogens such as Staphylococcus and Enterococcus are also developing antibiotic resistance.

In many cases, health care workers are left with only a few antibiotics available to use to treat infections, and there is always a risk they might one day become useless. But it is not just drug resistance we should worry about, but overuse of antibiotics can also cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Lots of times, it may only be a bad case of diarrhea, but the point is this, why take an antibiotic you don’t need in the first place and end up exposing yourself to unwanted side-effects?

“If we continue down the road of inappropriate use we’ll lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life-threatening infections,” CDC Director Tom Frieden says, according to Newser. “Losing these antibiotics would undermine our ability to treat patients with deadly infections [and] cancer, provide organ transplants, and save victims of burns and trauma.”

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Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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