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Doctors sometimes overprescribe strongest antibiotics

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 12, 2013

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Six in 10 physicians choose broad-spectrum antibiotics when they prescribe antibiotics, and the drugs are useless in 25% of those cases because the infections stemmed from viruses, a new study said.

Prescribing these strongest types of antibiotics contributes to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, said the study, posted online July 25 in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (link). Physicians often selected the strong antibiotics for illnesses such as respiratory problems, skin infections and urinary tract infections, the study said. Researchers reviewed a sample of 238,624 outpatient visits by adults in 2007-09.

The study’s authors said antibiotic overuse is a serious problem among adult and child patients. Uncertainty about the cause of an infection is one reason for overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics, they said.

They said doctors and patients play a role in ensuring that antibiotics are used only when needed. Patients, they added, can play a bigger part by asking their doctors if an antibiotic is needed.

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