Physicians Too Often Prescribe Powerful Antibiotics, Study Says
While physicians are prescribing fewer antibiotics than before, the antibiotics they do prescribe often are too powerful for the ailment, according to a study in today's edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. For the study, researchers examined CDC data from outpatient clinics between 1991 and 1999, finding that the overall number of antibiotic prescriptions doctors wrote decreased by 17% over the study period. However, the frequency of prescriptions for powerful antibiotics roughly doubled from 24% to 48% for adults and from 24% to 40% for children, the study finds. The study also notes that use of powerful drugs for bronchitis and respiratory infections increased during the study period, even though those medicines are "almost always useless against" such infections, the AP/Star Tribune reports. Dr. Michael Steinman of the University of California-San Francisco, the study's lead author, said, "The more we use [antibiotics] now for conditions that do not require them, the more quickly bacteria will become [resistant] to these drugs, and when we really do need them for serious and complicated conditions, they won't be there anymore." In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Richard Besser of the CDC said that doctors might be prescribing powerful antibiotics more often because they "mistakenly perceive [that] the newer drugs work better" or because the drugs are "heavily advertised and distributed to doctors in free samples" (Loviglio, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4/1). The complete text of the study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.