25% of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions are inappropriate, study finds

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

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 28,332 ambulatory visits in 2015 from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. They developed a classification scheme to determine whether the diagnosis codes from each visit justified antibiotic use.

About 13.2 percent of visits involved an antibiotic prescription. Of these, 57 percent were deemed appropriate, and 25 percent were inappropriate. Eighteen percent of prescriptions did not include a documented indication. Among this group, quinolones were the most commonly prescribed antibiotic class.

Adults who are male, have a chronic condition, spend more time with a provider and visit a nonprimary care specialist were more likely to receive an antibiotic prescription without an indication. 

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