Inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions common among US ambulatory care providers

In March 2015, the White House set a goal of reducing antibiotic use 50 percent nationally by 2020. However, the exact number of antibiotics currently prescribed is unknown.

To get a reliable estimate of antibiotic prescription rates, researchers looked at 2010-2011 data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care surveys. They combined the rates of total antibiotic prescription and appropriate prescription based on national guidelines and regional variation to determine what the appropriate annual rate of antibiotic prescription would be in a population of 1,000.

The surveys produced more than 184,000 sample visits which the researchers used to conclude that for a population of 1,000, 506 antibiotic prescriptions are written annually. They extrapolated these numbers to estimate that 154 million antibiotic prescriptions were written in U.S. ambulatory care settings in 2010-2011.

"Half of antibiotic prescriptions for acute respiratory conditions may have been unnecessary, representing 34 million antibiotic prescriptions annually," the authors wrote.

"Collectively, across all conditions, an estimated 30 percent of outpatient, oral antibiotic prescriptions may have been inappropriate."

The findings are published in JAMA.

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