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Nearly half of antibiotic prescriptions may be unnecessary

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 22, 2013

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Physicians prescribe enough oral antibiotics each year to provide the drugs to four in five Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet as much as half of antibiotic prescribing may be inappropriate, CDC officials wrote in the April 11 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (link).

Nearly 260 million courses of antibiotics were dispensed in 2010, said the article, based on an analysis of information from the IMS Health database. Penicillin was the antibiotic class most often prescribed, and azithromycin was the top agent.

Patients in the South were prescribed 107.4 million antibiotic courses, nearly twice as many as the second-place region, the Midwest.

Family physicians wrote 25% of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions, more than any other prescribers. Pediatricians accounted for 13% of orders, as did internists. Dentists ordered 10% of antibiotic prescriptions, while nurse practitioners ordered 7%.

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