Nearly Half of Antibiotic Prescriptions Given Without Infection Diagnosis

About 25% of Antibiotic Prescriptions Unnecessary

In a sign that there is a long way to go to curb the overprescribing of antibiotics, a new study has found that nearly 50% of the medications are prescribed without a diagnosis of a bacterial infection. Results also showed that 20% of antibiotic scripts were given without a patient actually visiting the doctor.

Researchers looked at more than 500,000 prescriptions for antibiotics written by more than 2,000 prescribers, including doctors, physicians and nurse practitioners. For 46% of those prescriptions, there was no diagnosis of an infection. In 29%, another diagnosis was given, while for 17%, no diagnosis at all was given.

Results also showed that 10% of antibiotic scripts were given after a phone consultation.

Antibiotics are only useful against bacterial infections; they are useless against illnesses caused by virus. Using antibiotics when they are ineffective can lead to antibiotic resistance.

The most commonly prescribed antibiotics were penicillins (30%), such as amoxicillin, followed by macrolides, such as Zithromax (azithromycin) (23%), and cephalosporins such as Teflaro (ceftaroline) (13%).

The results were presented at the recent IDWeek (infectious diseases) conference and have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.


Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block

Jonathan Block is a freelance writer and former MedShadow content editor. He has been an editor and writer for multiple pharmaceutical, health and medical publications, including BioCentury, The Pink Sheet, Modern Healthcare, Health Plan Week and Psychiatry Advisor. He holds a BA from Tufts University and is earning an MPH with a focus on health policy from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.


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