According to a new study, nearly 25% of the antibiotics prescribed in 2016 were inappropriate for treating the health problems associated with patients. Thus, 1 in 7 patients would have received at least one unnecessary prescription that year.
Health authorities around the world and in the United States continue to warn each year about the excessive use of antibiotics and the increased risk of antimicrobial resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even consider their resistance as one of the “greatest public health problems of our time.“
But it would seem that American doctors have not yet measured the extent of overuse of these antibiotic drugs. Indeed, a study published in the British Medical Journal on January 16 reveals that out of 15.5 million prescriptions in the country, 23.2% concerned diseases that did not require any antibacterial treatment. Even worse, 28.5% were not associated with a recent diagnosis.
To reach these conclusions, scientists at the University of Michigan (United States) analyzed data from more than 19.2 million children and adults aged 0 to 64 years. They then determined for 2016 the cases where the orders were “appropriate”, “potentially appropriate” or “inappropriate”. For example, an infection of the tonsils is almost always treated with antibiotics. A case of asthma alone, on the contrary, never requires one.
In the end, 23.2% of the prescriptions were useless, 36% sometimes necessary and in more than a quarter of the cases (28.5%), the prescriptions were without a documented diagnosis. According to the researchers, these recommendations were made over the phone, with a long-time patient explaining some symptoms indicative of a bacterial infection.
Antibiotics are not immediately threatening. A high dose rarely kills, and the drugs do not create addiction. However, health authorities have warned for years against the excessive prescriptions. The more the human body ingests these drugs, the more the pathogens become familiar with and adapt to bypass them. Hence the development of “superbugs”.