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 is MedShadow’s content editor. He has previously worked for Psychiatry Advisor, Modern Healthcare, Health Reform Week and The Pink Sheet.