1 in 4 antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary, study finds

Healthcare providers inappropriately prescribe antibiotics 25 percent of the time, according to a study published in The BMJ.

For the study, researchers analyzed 91,738 diagnosis codes for 19.2 million privately insured patients using the 2016 Truven MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database. They developed a classification scheme to determine whether each diagnosis code "sometimes," "always," or "never" justified antibiotics.

In total, researchers identified 15.4 million outpatient antibiotic prescription fills. Of these, 12.8 percent were appropriate and 23.2 percent were inappropriate. Another 35.5 percent were potentially appropriate, and 28.5 percent were not associated with a recent diagnosis code.

Most inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions were prescribed for acute bronchitis, upper respiratory infections and coughing.

"Our findings are striking," lead study author Kao-Ping Chua, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan Medical School, told TIME. "On a population level, one out of seven people in the study received at least one inappropriate antibiotic prescription during the year. That's huge if you consider there are 320 million people in America."

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