Antibiotic Overuse Highest in the South and Midwest

Martin Cathrae/CC BY-SA 2.0

In every quarter of the year antibiotic overuse was highest in the South and the Midwest. Use is highest overall in the wintertime, which could be a result of people with common colds asking for antibiotics. It’s an ineffective practice considering that viruses cause common colds, not the bacteria which antibiotics treat, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and reported on LiveScience.

Problematic for Elderly

This is especially problematic for the elderly, who are more vulnerable to drug resistant superbugs. Using data on Medicare prescriptions, researchers found that the most prescriptions were written for older Americans in the South and Midwest: 21.4 percent of Medicare patients in the South and 19.2 percent of those in the Midwest within a three year period. The least prescriptions were written in the West at 17.4 percent.

"Patients should be aware that overuse of antibiotic is common, and the consequence is serious," said study researcher Yuting Zhang, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Antibiotic resistant superbugs have become a real problem, surfacing in hospitals and in our food supply. Infants and the elderly are the most vulnerable.

Superbug Formation

The Federal Register outlined the connection between overuse of antibiotics in the U.S. and newly formed drug resistant superbugs:

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly than antimicrobial susceptible bacteria and thus increases the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria. Because antimicrobial drug use contributes to the emergence of drug resistant organisms, these important drugs must be used judiciously in both animal and human medicine to slow the development of resistance. Using these drugs judiciously means that unnecessary or inappropriate use should be avoided.

Researchers were not clear what level of use was safe.

According to Zhang, on LiveScience, "exactly why the South had the highest rate of antibiotic prescriptions remains unclear, but it could be due in part to patients there asking for these prescriptions, or to health plan practices or regional education programs."

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Tags: Antibiotics