Study: Antibiotics are wrongly prescribed 1 out of 3 times


When’s the last time you went to the doctor with a sinus infection and walked out with a prescription for antibiotics? How about for an ear infection or a sore throat?

Antibiotics are a routine ‘go-to’ that some doctors use when patients come in with common ailments. But a new report suggests medical providers may want to think twice when they’re pulling out the prescription pad. 

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Overuse of antibiotics is more common than you think

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that antibiotics are wrongly prescribed nearly a third of the time.

Antibiotics prescription overuseSinusitis, aka sinus infection, was the top diagnosis likely to get you a prescription for antibiotics, with 56 out of every 1,000 cases resulting in a scrip.

But antibiotics are only an appropriate use for that condition 66% of the time, according to an analysis of data done by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Meanwhile, 43 patients out of every 1,000 with pharyngitis (aka sore throat) got antibiotics.

Yet antibiotics are the right medicine in only 49% of pharyngitis cases.

But wait, it gets worse: Antibiotics are completely unnecessary in 100% of cases involving viral upper respiratory infection, bronchitis/bronchiolitis, middle ear infections (nonsuppurative), influenza, viral pneumonia and asthma/allergy.

The study, which examined the outcomes of more than 180,000 medical visits from 2010 to 2011, also found that more than half of the U.S. population receives a prescription for antibiotics annually.


What’s the big deal about overuse of antibiotics?

The more antibiotics are used, the less effective they become for when you really need them. Plus, overuse of antibiotics in the population at large can contribute to the development of drug-resistant bacteria such as Clostridium difficile. That particular bacterium kills about 15,000 people a year via potentially lethal diarrhea.

With all the bad news about antibiotics, you may be wondering: When are they a good idea? It turns out they’re indispensable in cases involving urinary tract infections, pneumonia and miscellaneous bacterial infections.

So if you do come down with any of those specific ailments, you want to be sure to get the best price on your antibiotics, right? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Some retailers even offer select antibiotics for free!

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