Antibiotic Prescriptions On the Decline, Blue Cross Reports

Amid increasing concerns about the global health risks associated with the emergency of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”, a new report suggests that the number of antibiotic prescriptions has declined by about 9% in recent years. 

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) released a report last month titled, Antibiotic Prescription Fill Rates Declining in the U.S., which indicates that antibiotic prescribing is down in many areas, among many different demographics. However, there remains room for improvement to address the overuse of antibiotics, which may cause harder and harder to treat infections.

The threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has many health officials concerned as the use of antibiotics rises, which is believed to be contributing to the creation of so-called superbugs. A British study published in 2014 concluded antibiotic-resistant bacteria could kill 10 million people every year by the year 2050 unless drastic measures are taken to fight the superbugs.

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Researchers analyzed claims for filled antibiotic prescriptions for more than 31 million Americans under 65 years of age who were insured by BCBSA. This included data on more than 173 million patient claims.

Prescriptions for antibiotics filled at commercial pharmacies declined 9% from 2010 to 2016. Researchers note the decrease indicates headway has been made with public health campaigns to educate doctors and patients concerning the overuse of antibiotics, to help reduce the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The report also indicated the prescribing of broad-spectrum antibiotics decreased 13%. This is especially important considering broad-spectrum antibiotics are the type of antibiotic most likely to lead to antibiotic resistance,

The new study indicates that infants had the largest drop in fill rates, with a reduction of 22%. That was followed by children with a drop of 16% and adults saw a drop of 6%.

There is a wide difference in prescribing rates among different states and metropolitan areas in the country.

Antibiotic prescriptions fell 20% or more in Hawaii, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington. However, they increased 3% in Delaware and Illinois.

The rate of filled antibiotic prescriptions in Mississippi in 2016 was 123 per 100 beneficiaries. This is three times the rate of Montana, at 45 per 100. In Missoula, Montana the rates is 38 per 100; but in Monroe, Louisiana the rate is 169 per 100.

Despite the progress, the report indicates there are still areas for improvement. Specifically, many doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics for conditions for which antibiotics are not indicated. The report revealed 21% of outpatient prescriptions for antibiotics were not indicated for the patient’s condition.

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